By Benjamin H. Liles
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:9-10). But I also wonder what would that look like? If we honor one another above ourselves, doesn't that mean I have to put off being selfish, and to be more--selfless?
We need to understand what Paul is saying in these two short verses about love. He's not talking about romantic, or even emotional love. He's talking about love that endures. In fact, as I sit and look at the other meanings for the Greek of love, which is agape, these come to mind: "benevolence, good will, esteem." If we take what Paul is saying in Romans 12:9 it would read as "Let your estimation of others be true. Abhor evil; cleave to the good." So, the verse as it is above I tend to think is accurate enough.
Some will say that Paul wants love to be tough. After all he spoke against Barnabas when it came to John Mark, the writer of the gospel of Mark, coming with them on one of their ministry trips in Asia (around Modern Turkey and into Greece; see Acts 15:36-41). Where was that brotherly love between Paul and Barnabas? Considering Paul's writing in Romans I think Paul had a large amount of time to reflect on what he did in regards to Barnabas and even to John Mark.
If we consider the fact Paul was operating under the knowledge that if John Mark would abandon the ministry trip once, who's to say that it wouldn't happen again? I can't say for sure, but considering Barnabas and Paul separate and never again go on any other trip together as brothers in Christ, it seems the rift was a permanent issue. But we can't say Paul was being totally unreasonable in his argument about not allowing John Mark to go again on a trip. We have to see the context for what it is.
What we see is Paul saying something to the degree of, "Selfless love is most important; we ought to be devoted to each other, hating evil and clinging to the good. Love, above all, must be real." So, in my opinion, I think Paul is kind of looking back and in his own way saying, "I shouldn't have been so sharp-tongued." But what about in our every day lives? What does this look like?
If you are married, as I am, it means allowing your spouse to have their moment in talking, in sharing their point of view. If there is a disagreement, think on the best way to agree on the main points so as to show a level of sincere devotion to him or her. Then, if there is still a disagreement, you can smooth over the small details. As scripture says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26, New American Standard).
Again, I have to point the finger at myself on this simply because there are times where I feel so passionate about something my wife and I are talking about I don't feel like budging on the issue. The point here is that I can't simply walk away while feeling frustrated or even angry because I can't or don't see her point. That's selfish of me to do. And in that sense I get her side of the argument when she says, "Ben, you acted immaturely." I admit it, yes; sometimes I get that way, but I also admit as well I do my best to apologize quickly too.
So, what was the reason for sharing Romans 12:9-10? What did we all learn here? Considering today is the day after Valentine's in America one would think i would have chosen a better verse on love. But is God romantic towards us? No, not really. He wants us to think of others as much as we think of ourselves. Valentine's day is a day of showering that special someone in your life, such as a spouse, with the love you have for them. But God desires us to show love to every fellow man and woman. So, love isn't this thing we ought to be emotional over and to be romantic.
Actually, the kind of love God desires for us to have is to do good to and for one another. If you see someone struggling to get something done, ask if you can help. If someone looks distressed, ask if they need an open and listening ear. When someone tells you about a hurt, don't talk over them; simply let them get their need of their chest, and then see if there's a way you can help. More often than not a helpful and willing ear is all that's needed.
In my opinion, another one of Ben's many wisdoms here, allow the love you have for others to be selfless. Don't be motivated for something you can get out of what you're doing for someone else. Be compassionate intentionally. Look to do good regardless the circumstance. Abide in God, love doing good, and be about doing the best for others regardless what they do to you. I pray this uplifts and encourages you today. In the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, do I finish this. Amen.