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©Laura Haverkamp

Chapter 12:9-21 (ESV)

Posted on January 14, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 12:9-21 (ESV) - Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Question to consider: Christ commands us to love one another, but does that mean we have to like everyone?

I hope that as you have been going through this study on Romans, you recognize how Paul has constructed his arguments like a master builder, laying one on top of another so that everything is laid on top of a foundation of the gospel— the idea that every person regardless of their origin has failed to obtain the righteousness that comes by our own works and can only achieve righteousness through faith in the risen Christ.

With this righteousness, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, making our prayers acceptable to God and conforming us to the image of Christ. Along with this gift, God has supplied us with additional gifts and abilities to love and serve one another as we serve Christ in a local body of believers.

This love should be genuine. Paul’s sentence in the Greek is three words: Hē agapē anypokritos. Literally it is translated “Love without hypocrisy.” This is the kind of love that is not based on fondness (which Paul uses with his command for brotherly affection). It is the kind of love that can come by way of command because we fix our hearts to display this love toward a person regardless of who they are or where they come from (even among Jews and Gentiles). The hypocrite was an actor who generally wore a mask to portray a character so Paul was saying, “Don’t just pretend to love one another, but do it.”

All of the verses that come after this let the reader know what “love without hypocrisy” looks like. It looks like encouraging what is good and rooting out what is evil. It looks like brotherly affection. I’ve often heard people say, “The Bible commands me to love [insert name], but it doesn’t say I have to like him/her.” Paul disagrees with that assertion. His idea of brotherly affection is bending over backwards to show respect and honor where due, serving each other in the Lord with enthusiasm, caring for each other’s needs and showing hospitality to one another.

In case you think Paul only meant to show this kind of affection to brothers and sisters who treat you well, he added, “Bless those who persecute you.” Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us in regard to the world (Matthew 5:44). Paul will also extend it to society as a whole in the next chapter, but his primary focus in today’s passage is on the members of your local church body.

What does it look like to bless those who persecute us? It is in empathizing with one another’s joys and sorrows, seeking to live in harmony with one another, not thinking of ourselves as better than one another, and not seeking vengeance but peace with one another. He concludes that this peace can be achieved if we let God be the one to bring about justice. Our response should always be to show mercy and seek reconciliation with one another. In this, we will not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. As the apostle Peter once said, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving us a local church body in which to love and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. We confess that this is often difficult to do, and we ask that You help us to develop a genuine love and respect for those for whom it is difficult. You have shown us such a great mercy. Help us to let it overflow to our neighbor. Amen.