Scripture Notes for Romans 12:9-21
- Paul urges Christians to love genuinely. Hate what is evil and cling to what is good.
- Give one another honor and mutual affection.
- Be enthusiastic in service to the Lord.
- Be filled with hope, patience in suffering, and perseverance in prayer.
- Aid saints in need and offer hospitality to strangers.
- Bless those who persecute you.
- Celebrate with those who celebrate and weep with those who weep.
- Live in harmony with others. Be humble. Associate with the lowly.
- Do not repay evil for evil. Do what is noble in everyone's sight.
- As much as possible, live peaceably with all.
- Leave vengeance to God.
- Care for your enemies.
- Do not let evil overcome you; instead, overcome evil with good.
The focus of this week's passage is new life in Christ. This new life in Christ displays genuine love, without hypocrisy. Some refer to genuine love as a commitment to good. Paul lists ten virtues that result from this core of genuine love. Paul gives considerable attention to urging Christians to love their enemies and not seek vengeance. Take time to underscore the importance of living out Christian love practically, in everyday situations.
Key Preaching/Teaching Points:
Love must be sincere:
- Void of hypocrisy
- Not seeking more in return than is given
- Not motivated by personal gain
Hate what is evil:
- Love requires passion for good and passion against what is evil.
- Evil itself must be hated, not just the consequences of involvement with evil.
Live humbly; avoid pride and arrogance:
Christianity obliterated class distinctions in the Roman Empire. Master and slave sat together in worship.
Participate in society — Do not set up Christian ghettoes.
- If someone grieves, weep with him or her.
- If a celebration occurs, join in the festivities.
- Learn to live in harmony as much as possible with everyone.
- Learn how to establish common ground and develop friendships.
Hospitality toward strangers is central to the Christian faith:
Hospitality included assisting people in need and offering hospitality in one's home.
For a more extensive examination of Christian hospitality, see Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition.
Bless those who persecute you.
- Take careful thought before responding to evil.
- Do not perform acts of vengeance; instead, offer practical help; offer food and water.
Key Terms: Does your audience know the following terms found or alluded to in Romans 12:9-21?
"Heap burning coals on their heads" — This figure of speech carries multiple interpretations, including the following:
- Most commonly referred to: love offered in exchange of evil that causes shame and guilt in the enemy. It is hoped that this loving act leads to repentance within the enemy.
- An Egyptian ritual in which people carried a pan of hot coals on their heads as evidence of penitence.
- Could liken the offer kindness to one's enemies to giving hot coals to someone needing to keep his or her fire burning at home — an actual blessing.
For a list of interpretations of "heap burning coals on their heads," go to www.zianet.com/maxey/Roman25.htm.
Vengeance— Acting to bring justice to bear in your own disputes. The term carries the understanding of private vengeance; that is, a freelance version of justice — vigilante justice. Allow God to do justice, which may occur through the established judicial system.
"Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly" (Rom. 12:16b). How might this verse relate to The United Methodist Church? Does The United Methodist Church collectively associate with the lowly? How many United Methodist churches are located where the lowly are likely to reside? How many churches in higher income communities reach out to the lowly?
Evangelistic Preaching Tips
Genuine love is the focus of this week's passage. Take time to provide clear, concrete examples of how people can live into this genuine love. Choose from Paul's list of ten virtues in this passage.
Reading: Romans 12:9-21 [An Evangelistic Approach — To lead people to Christ]
Abandon the Counterfeit Life — Any bank teller knows that spotting counterfeit money first requires that one knows what is genuine. After repeated exposure to what is genuine, the bank teller can easily spot the counterfeit item. It is the same with genuine Christian love. Constant exposure to genuine Christian love builds a growing desire for more. That yearning for the genuine also produces repulsion toward the counterfeit. Dissatisfaction with our personal lives is often an indication that something counterfeit has crept in (also known as hypocrisy). Paul's message urges us to embrace genuine love through Jesus Christ.
Aim: Encourage pre-Christians to abandon lives of hypocrisy and embrace the genuine love offered by Jesus Christ.
Reading: Romans 2:9-21 [A Renewal Approach — To strengthen the faith of Christians]
Red Hot Love —Everyone faces personal insult, affronts, or abuses in life. Paul admonishes us to soberly consider how we respond to wrongdoing. Vengeance — ultimate judgment — is something best left up to the only impartial judge — God. This does not mean that we suffer abuse needlessly. The point is not to take actions that could lead to a self-serving, vigilante type of response. The key is restraint. Explore practical ways that Christians can restrain themselves from rash actions that cause more harm than good. Paul adds that instead of repaying evil for evil, we should offer blessing. Consider the impact of love applied to evil acts. "Red Hot Love" can refer to turning heated anger into love or the impact of love on a heated situation.
Aim: Encourage Christians to restrain themselves from self-serving vengeance and offer love instead.
Reading: Romans 2:9-21 [A Reclamation Approach — To restore "de-churched" individuals to vital faith in Jesus Christ]
Abandon the Counterfeit Life — See the above description for pre-Christians.
Aim: Encourage de-churched persons to abandon lives of hypocrisy and embrace the genuine love offered by Jesus Christ.
Provide Opportunities for a Faith Response
Invite people to participate in individual or congregational acts of "genuine love" toward others.
Provide Opportunities for Follow Up
Consider participation in National Neighborhood Day. See www.neighborhoodday.org
Resources for Romans
- The New Interpreter's Bible A Commentary in Twelve Volumes: Volume X — Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians. Abingdon Press.
- The Message of Romans: God's Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today) by John R. W. Stott
- Romans: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries by F. F. Bruce
- Romans: A Shorter Commentary [ABRIDGED] by C. E. B. Cranfield
Follow Up Resource Available in pdf
Small Groups & Accountability: The Wesleyan Way of Christian Formation, by Steven W. Manskar, Director of Accountable Discipleship, Discipleship Ministries
General Evangelism Resources
- Ancient Future Evangelism by Robert Webber
Webber explains Pentecost as the traditional time to declare one's Christian vocation.
- The Faith-Sharing Congregation by Roger Swanson and Shirley Clement
- Faith-Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation by H. Eddie Fox and George Morris
- The Faith-Sharing initiative Participants' Manual (Spanish Version) — El compromiso de compartir nuestra fe: Manual del Participante (pdf)
- The Faith Sharing New Testament
- That the World May Know Jesus Christ! by Brazilian Methodist Bishop Paulo Lockmann
- Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith by Henry H. Knight III and Douglas Powe Jr.
- Witness: Learning to Share Your Christian Faith