October 1, 2010
Last Sunday, I heard a practical piece of advice that I would like to pass onto you: “If you want to know how to ‘live like a Christian,’ memorize Romans 12.” I’m not very good at memorizing anything. I can retain a lot of information in song form, but otherwise, I only hold it temporarily. This, however, is kind of what I have been looking for.
The task of being a Christian can seem daunting. Once people know you are a Christian, they begin to scrutinize every move you make—and rightly so, you are claiming to be an ambassador of God. It’s a big deal, and one I fail at marvelously.
So, I read the passage. And, being the person I am, I went to work to first really break it down and understand it before I endeavored to memorize it. That is what I would like to share with you now. I went through and found all the words that I could explain—kind of—but couldn’t truly DEFINE in the context, and I defined them. First is the traditional NKJ version with the words highlighted that I looked up. What follows will be “my version” with the words replaced and some brief commentary.
Romans 12:9-13 (New King James Version)
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
“My” version (I also changed some punctuation for clarity)
Let love be without pretense, or do not profess to love if it is not sincere. Regard what is evil as repugnant. Hold together what is good, hold onto it tenaciously. Be kindly affectionate to one another (the way you would expect brothers to be) in honor, choosing to give advantages to others above yourself. Do not delay in showing persistent, personal affection. Exhibit great intensity of feeling in spirit, serving the Lord. [Be always] rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing to be firmly fixed, immovable in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints; given to generous and cordial reception of guests offering a pleasant or sustaining environment.
I will not comment on every definition but there were a few things I noticed, that I believe are worth sharing.
1. We are not asked to just hate what is evil. That is simple. We are asked to regard what is evil as repugnant or distasteful, objectionable, and offensive. In American society today, to hate what God considers evil is very often considered bigotry, closed-mindedness and even dangerous.
Where does that leave the people of God?
2. I also noticed that the word “cling” in the original is an active word. It is something WE DO, not something that happens. We are asked to hold together that which is good. It takes effort. Good has to be protected and worked at.
3. Note briefly that it does not say be kind to each other as brothers ARE, but rather, how you expect them to be. We all know brothers who are not kindly nor affectionate to one another. But that really isn’t the point.
4. Preference, like clinging, becomes an action. It is a choice to give others advantages above ourselves.
5. Lastly, I love that the verse says we are to rejoice in HOPE. God is really great at challenging us to do the one thing that does not come naturally. We naturally rejoice in fulfilled prayers. We naturally rejoice when trials are over. Here, however, we are instructed to rejoice in HOPE. In just the thought that things will get better, in the promises of God and not necessarily the FULFILLMENT of those promises.
There’s really nothing more I can say. God is good, and He really has given us a guide to know how to live and where to stand, and what to do. Sometimes, we just need to know where to look.