TEXT: Romans 12:9-13; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
P aul’s discourse on the essential teaching of Christian living glides from vital Christian service and ministry within the body of Christ to daily practical Christian relationship that underscores Christian brotherhood. These teachings are put forth with an obligatory tone leaving no place for excuses or exemptions. This body of teaching zeros in on the life of love and its full- blossomed fruits. Unfeigned love produces selfless, unpretentious and excited service one to another in the Church. Love is more important than all the spiritual gifts being exercised in the present-day church. Great faith, acts of dedication or sacrifice, and miracle working power produce very little without love. Love makes our actions and gifts useful. This is the hub of Christian life and relationship. If we have all things and lack love, we have nothing. All ministry activities we engage in will be unprofitable if the love of God is not at its foundation. Although people have different gifts, love is required of everyone.
CHRISTIAN LOVE: THE BASIS OF SERVICE (Romans 12:9,10; John 13:34,35; Philippians 1:9; Romans 13:10; Hebrews 13:1)
The Lord took extra pain to teach and show His disciples the new commandment – love. This is the only virtue that could help them to reach the uttermost parts of the earth. It is the propelling quality that could fire our zeal. The desire to serve one another is fulfilled when the heart is rich in love. We cannot give any excuse of being too busy or too occupied so much as not to be concerned about the physical and spiritual needs of our brethren. God, who looks at our disposition, thoughts and hearts, who protects and keeps will know; “and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:12). “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34,35).
What articulates and loudly declares our relationship with the Lord is not our preaching, ushering or singing in the choir. It is our life of love that tells the world that we are disciples of Christ. The measure of our love should be the measure of the love of Jesus for us. The strange thing amongst believers is that Christian activities seem to drown the love of God in our hearts. The more activities we get engaged in, the less of love we have for the brethren. True fellowship always dies where love ceases to exist. This is the reason many fellowship centres are witnessing low turnout. But here, Paul the apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, admonishes that our love must be pure and unfeigned. It is disheartening that most of us have learned how to pretend to love others – how to speak kindly, avoid hurting their feelings, and appear to take an interest in them. Some are even skilled in pretending to be moved with compassion when they hear of others’ needs, or to become indignant when they learn of injustice. But God calls us to real and sincere love that goes far beyond pretense and politeness. Sincere love requires concentration and effort. It means helping others become better people. It demands our time, money, and personal involvement. Because of the prevalence of feigned love among believers, Peter the apostle had this to say: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22).
Our society today confuses love and lust. Unlike lust, God’s kind of love is directed outward toward others, not inward toward ourselves. It is utterly unselfish. This kind of love goes against our natural inclinations. It is possible to practice this love only if God helps us set aside our own desires and instincts, so that we can show love while expecting nothing in return. Thus, the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others in the body of Christ. Our love must not be smiles covered with bitterness and hatred; it must be devoid of lust. It must not be one that loves the opposite gender and excludes his gender from
his deeds of love. Covetousness must be stripped off our life of love. We should not love because of what we stand to gain or enjoy from the relationship. Again, our love must be impartial – free and full; love for all without discrimination or ulterior motive. Our love must be one that is fervent, not passive or disinterested. Some say: ‘I love people, but I don’t know how to show it’. But they err. Love is expressed in actions of affection, kindness, consideration and empathy. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Love overlooks the mistakes of others, forgives others very readily even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. When we do this, we are really following God (Ephesians 5:1). The Lord wants us to manifest love in our actions and relationships with one another. In fact, this is the very basis and foundation of our activity in the Church and ministry in the body of Christ. Our love must not approve of sin. We must eschew or run away from any act or conduct that has the stain of sin. Gossips, backbiting, negative criticism must be abhorred. We must not be party to anything that would discourage or put down a brother or a sister. On the contrary, we should cleave to that which is good. Remember the golden rule always and live by it. “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). If you want people to love you, you should love them first. If you want people to forgive you, appreciate you and speak well of you, do the same to them. If you want your mistakes and oversights to be overlooked, do the same to others too. If you do not want false stories about you to be peddled, do not do that to others too. This is the foundation of our service.
COMMITMENT AND ZEAL IN GOD’S SERVICE (Romans 12:11,12; Acts 18:25; Psalm 69:9)
“Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:11,12). Six things are noted in these two verses as characteristics of our Christian service. First, not slothful in business; second, fervent in Spirit; third, serving the Lord; fourth, rejoicing in hope; five, patient in tribulation; and six,
continuing instant in prayer. All these must be carefully considered and cultivated if we want our service to be acceptable to the Lord. The charge to eschew slothfulness in business applies both to our daily private pursuits and our Christian service. “For
even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies” (2 Thessalonians 3:10,11). We should be diligent in the daily execution of our secular work. A true believer must provide for the need of his family members. God places a high premium on dignity of labour. Besides, women also should not be slothful in domestic business. The home of Christian women should not be left untidy or their personal body unkempt with the excuse of a heavy load of Christian service to bear. Again, believers who are involved in different aspects of work in the church must not be slothful. The preacher in the church must create time to study and read the Bible thoroughly before ministering to God’s people. If you will be a member of the choir in your church, you must be prepared to give the hours of arduous practice required to minister in songs to the people of God.
Fervency of Spirit involves some personal internal motivation and desire to carry on a given task. This is described as zeal. It strips our service of every form of passivity. “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me” (Psalm 69:9). Serving the Lord in whatever capacity – literature distribution, hospital visitation, prison outreach, etc. must be performed with cheerfulness and zeal. “Not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Our service must be “as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 6:6; Colossians
THE SACRIFICIAL LOVE AMONG THE BRETHREN (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:16; 1 John 3:16-18; Galatians 5:13)
“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Here, we have the commandment of the Lord concerning our service. It is a responsibility for all believers. Some feel they are so poor that they have nothing to distribute. But
they miss it. While we may not have something tangible or material to share, we can speak kind words to comfort the sorrowful and encourage those who are discouraged (1 Thessalonians 1:2,3). Our love should not be partial, passive or theoretical. We must show mercy to the needy and give to meet the needs of other saints. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him” (1 John 3:16,17).
Supreme love for God and love for our fellow men attracts divine blessings. There will be divine favour and supplies to meet our needs. God will answer our prayers and fulfil His promises in our lives and endeavors when we pray. He will make our days like “the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21). So, we must happily lay down our resources for the good of the brethren if we say we love the brotherhood. This is the New Testament commandment. It is the summary of the law and the prophets put together. We must serve one another in love.