After spending eleven chapters laying a foundation of the Christian faith doctrine-by-doctrine, Paul turns his attention in chapter twelve of Romans to how the Christian should live out their faith in order to glorify God.
In Romans 12:9-10, the focus is centered upon love. In essence, Paul is making the point that this is what authentic Christianity looks like and the world should see it clearly displayed among the church family. Just as he does when he writes to the church in Galatia and talks about the fruit of the Spirit, Paul places love first in his list here in Romans 12:9-21 as well.
Some years ago, I overheard a person make the following statement about his relationship to the rest of his church. He said, “I am called to love everyone in the church, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like everyone.” I understand the spirit of what was being said, but I simply disagree. Paul writes the following in Romans 12:9, “Let love be genuine.”
Genuine love is not hypocritical. It doesn’t wear a mask. It doesn’t display love outwardly while beneath the surface concealing hatred or a strong dislike. Paul uses the Greek term, “ἀγάπη” was not a common type of love among the Greek culture. This is one of the rarest words in ancient Greek literature. It describes a sacrificial love, one that loves in such a way that is not motivated by a return or potential value. It’s a love of the will whereby a person chooses to love. This is the way God loved us according to Romans 5:8 and John 3:16.
Paul goes on to explain in the very next verse (Romans 12:10) that the church is to love one another with a brotherly love. He uses a compound word in the Greek “φιλαδελφία” that literally means “brotherly love.” In fact, two times in this single verse, Paul uses the term “ἀλλήλων” translated one another. All throughout the Bible, the church is called to love one another, care for one another, and support one another.
Regarding the Church’s Unity:
- Be at peace with one another (Mk 9:50)
- Don’t grumble among one another (Jn 6:43)
- Be of the same mind with one another (Ro 12:16, 15:5)
- Accept one another (Ro 15:7)
- Wait for one another before beginning the Lord’s Supper (1 Co 11:33)
- Don’t bite, devour, and consume one another (Ga 5:15)
- Don’t envy one another (Ga 5:26)
- Gently, patiently tolerate one another (Ep 4:2)
- Be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another (Ep 4:32)
- Bear with and forgive one another (Co 3:13)
- Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil (1 Th 5:15)
- Don’t complain against one another (Jas 4:11, 5:9)
- Confess sins to one another (Jas 5:16)
Regarding the Church’s Humility:
- Give preference to one another in honor (Ro 12:10)
- Regard one another as more important than yourselves (Php 2:3)
- Serve one another (Ga 5:13)
- Wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14)
- Don’t be haughty: be of the same mind to one another (Ro 12:16)
- Be subject to one another (Ep 5:21)
- Clothe yourselves in humility toward one another (1 Pe 5:5)
Regarding the Church’s Love:
- Love one another (Jn 13:34, 15:12, 17; Ro 13:8; 1 Th 3:12, 4:9; 1 Pe 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11, 4:7, 11; 2 Jn 5)
- Through love, serve one another (Ga 5:13)
- Tolerate one another in love (Ep 4:2)
- Greet one another with a kiss (Ro 16:16; 1 Co 16:20; 2 Co 13:12)
- Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Ro 12:10)
Immediately after baptizing 3,000 people following Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, the early church is pictured as being devoted to the apostle’s teaching. The very next description of the early church is fellowship. The word for fellowship is “κοινωνία” which transcends a fist bump and casual hello on Sunday morning. The idea expressed by the early church’s fellowship was true and genuine love—resulting in close relationships through the gospel.
The idea that we are to merely tolerate one another as members of the same church is simply not biblical. We are called to love one another with a brotherly affection that transcends shallow pretense. Anyone can tolerate another person in a work environment or at a high school football game, but the church is to put on display the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ by demonstrating genuine love for one another.
Remember Jesus’ words, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).