Romansby David Cook
In thinking about ourselves in the church, we are to be both sober and humble. In thinking about the church itself, sincere love is the attitude that must dominate. Our love must not have any pretence about it; it must be genuine. It is not “soppy sentimentality”, undiscerning in its affirmations, but clinging to and affirming good, and disapproving evil. In the church family, affection and respect for one another are to be ongoing values.
Paul closes this section with three exhortations. Firstly, all this activity is to be driven spiritually (v. 11). Secondly, it must never be lacking in zeal, but “keep the fires of the spirit burning” (J. B. Phillips). These two are energised by the third exhortation: “waiting like slaves upon the Lord” (Knox translation).
Giving ourselves to Christ’s service is both the surest fruit of spiritual fervour and the condition of maintaining the glow. Zeal and service are inseparable twins. Similarly, if we are to rejoice in our future hope and be patient in present affliction, we are to be consistent in prayer (v. 12). As service is the feeder for zeal, so prayer is the feeder for joy and persevering patience. Being busy in our service of others and being faithful in prayer are keys to a healthy spiritual disposition.
Additionally, we are to be eager to practise, or literally “persecuting”, hospitality (v. 13)—that is, pursuing opportunities to be hospitable to others with the zeal of a persecutor.
Hospitality, or providing a haven for the needy, is the key to sharing; prayer is the key to joyous perseverance; and service is the key to spiritual zeal. All this is involved in being “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (v. 1). Such an attitude is eminently practical in our relationships with God’s people.
According to Romans 1:25, idolatry is the great lie. Worshipping the god of self is the greatest apostasy. The best friend is one who urges us away from self-seeking idolatry and reminds us that we are living sacrifices, and that as servants, our calling is to serve! When we serve others in the ways outlined in verses 6 to 8, we are showing in the clearest way our true identity in Christ. This is the reasonable response to God’s mercies.
Hospitality was important in the first century. Why is it still important today?
How does the connection of zeal and service help you understand the dynamics of Christian living?