02 May 2021
Love One Another
Passage Romans 12:10-11
Speaker Chris Haley
Series Romans: Unashamed
Love One Another
How do you feel about other Christians? It’s that awkward question isn’t it! Most common answer I’ve heard over the years? “Well the Bible says you need to love them, but it doesn’t say you have to like them!” And we both laugh- hahaha! It’s a joke, but there’s an awkward reality to it!
How do you feel about the folk at your church? I’m aware there are folk joining us from other ones. How would you feel if I said that in one sense it were like you are married to the other people at your church? That in God’s eyes you were bound and glued together? That you were responsible for each other, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health? That many of the things we are called to do in marriage, we are called to do to another? Of course, there are certain activities that are confined to actual marriage, we don’t need to go there, and there are children watching! But many of the things we are called to do with a marriage partner we are called to do with one another.
Our three points this morning are: Love, honour and obey. The obey one is for God, rather than each other, but we’ll come to that when we get there. If that’s right, then surely that should change our view of church, of each other. What we’re called to is something much deeper than a brief hello and a chat about the weather. Would you call that a healthy marriage? Church is not a club of likeminded enthusiasts. It’s not an institution! As Groucho Marx famously said who wants be part of an institution!? It’s not a legal entity. There can be a legal side like marriage, but if your marriage is all about the signing of the registers, there’s a problem! So what is then? It’s a family bound together by the Holy Spirit, bound together in the bonds of love, and that is our first point:
Love- Love one another (Brotherly) v10a
This may seem like a shift from me talking about marriage to brotherly affection or brotherly love, but this passage abounds in different words for love. This is all if you remember from last week, unpacking that phrase ‘genuine love’, unhypocritical love. The word for love there is ‘agape’. The kind of love God has for us. There are two other words for love in just this brief half a sentence; ‘Brotherly affection’, literally ‘brotherly love’ – ‘Philadelphia’ in Greek. Not to be confused with the city or the cheese! But also, that phrase love one another is quite a specific word, ‘be devoted to one another’ in the NIV, ‘show family affection to one another…’ in the HCSB. It’s the word used for the love a parent has for a child. Be attached to them as a parent would be to a child.
He’s mixing his metaphors, his pictures, so it makes it quite hard to get your head round, but the picture he’s painting is of a family. Scripture abounds with these pictures. Romans does! v1 Paul calls us brothers and he uses that word 19 times in Romans. Nearly always it can be translated brothers and sisters as the Greek word can include women too! That’s not being PC, it’s actually just good grammar! In ch15 he mentions a woman who he says has been like a mother to him. Several times in the scriptures Paul refers to fellow Christians as his children, none more than Timothy who he calls that again and again. And to Timothy he writes this in 1 Timothy 5:1-2:
1 Timothy 5:1-2 ESV 1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
I remember when I first started going to Sunday school as a child we had to call the leaders aunts and uncles. It was auntie Steph and uncle Paul who were my Sunday school teachers. It’s a bit quaint- and I don’t think we should get it back- there’s child protection implications and all sorts of things! But the attitude we should get back, that we’re a family! A family that sticks together through thick and thin! That is how we are to treat each other in church- as family
Is that how you would characterise your love for others in church? Are they like your brothers and sisters? Are they like your fathers and mothers? Aunties and Uncles? If your sister rang you up and needed help- wouldn’t you go? If your mother was ill, wouldn’t you go see her? Under normal circumstances! But wouldn’t it be weird if that was the only time you went to see them? Wouldn’t it be weird if that were the only time you talked to one another on the phone? I think as a church we’re not bad at the triage stuff- you know when things go wrong- could be better of course, but what about just the normal run of life? Are we like a family then? Do we love one another when nothing’s wrong? Do we meet up with one another when we’re not struggling? Do we pray for one another when there isn’t a crisis? Love in a family isn’t just in the hard times You are actually allowed to enjoy their company! For some of us family is hard! For some of us church is hard! But maybe if we loved one another like brothers and sisters, if we mothers and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles to each other- in the best way- it might make it a little less hard? Love one another (brotherly) and then secondly:
Honour – Honour One Another (Competitively?) v10b
This part I think is the most embarrassing part of this section for us Brits: show honour? That sounds uncomfortable. I searched for hymn or song that had this idea in it. I couldn’t find one- don’t google it now, google it later! Lots about loving one another, but honouring one another? Seems a step too far. Lots of songs about honouring God, none about honouring other Christians. I think part of the problem is what we think of that word ‘honour’. When I read this I imagine those long and gushing introductions that are given to pastors in other parts of the word which will remain nameless. It always reminds me of boxing announcers! “And now we’re going to have the foremost Bible teacher in the whole of the South East county area. The expert of exegesis. The A prodigy among preachers. The ace of application. The champion of orthodoxy. The true defender of the faith. One whose ministry has been life changing to millions. Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare yourself to be blown away by the phenomenon that is Doctor Martin Llyod Jones!”
You’ll be pleased to know that is not what is called for here- and if any of you dare to try to announce me in that way you may find out my boxing skills! I have none- don’t worry! What it’s calling for though is way more than flattering words said over a loud speaker. The word ‘honour’ is really another form of the word ‘value’. Let me list some of the ways this word can be translated; to prize, to assign value to, to count as dear, costly, valued or treasured. We are to prize one another. We are to value one another. We are to show that in the way we treat one another. When was the last time you showed someone in church know that they were valued by you? When was the last time you let someone know how dear they are to you? Of course, we can only show it if we genuinely feel it- otherwise it’s the hypocritical love Paul is warning us off. Do you genuinely value others in church? And if they do, do they know that? And this is not a pleas from me as a pastor for more encouragement, I’m talking about doing this for each other. Do we value each other in the church?
And it’s not just about valuing what you can get from each other- Paul doesn’t use this word honour very often, but one time he does is when he’s quoting ‘Honour your father and mother’- honour is a family thing too! Love them as you would a child, love them as you would a brother, honour them as you would a parent. How more ‘family’ can you get? And in a family it’s not about what they do, it’s who they are. Do you value them as a person? For their own sake, not just what you can get out of them? Society is starting to go down this line sometimes that someone is only valuable if they are useful. Value is related to what you can get out of someone rather than who they are. That is not the Bible’s line. People have intrinsic value and dignity. It’s not just about what you van get out of them.
That said, there can be special honour due for specific roles or service. Talking of a man called Epaphroditus who had travelled hundreds of miles to deliver help to Paul, Paul writes:
Philippians 2:29-30 ESV 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honour such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
What Paul commends Epaphroditus for is not so much a specific gift, but his attitude of selfless service. In Romans language here is an example of a living sacrifice, laying down his life in service for his brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s worthy of honour says Paul! He also says elders who lead well should be worthy of double honour.
1 Timothy 5:17 ESV 17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching.
Again the emphasis is not just on the gift ‘leading’ (same word as v8) but that they do it well! It’s also a reminder that if they are worthy of double honour, other are at least worthy of single honour, right? And we’re to ‘outdo’ one another in showing it. Does make it sound like a kind of competition. It’s a tricky little phrase there- best translation I reckon: the CSB “Take the lead in honouring one another.” Take the lead in doing it, make it your responsibility, your job to show honour. Do it to the best of your abilities. Now that may end up in a competition as everyone tries to take the lead, but better that the opposite, everyone taking a back seat! “Not my responsibility”, “Not my job”, “Someone else can do it”, or even “Why should I show honour, nobody ever shows it to me!” Take the lead, says Paul! Don’t wait around for others to start doing it- start doing it now! Don’t be a hypocrite saying that no-body is being valued, if you’re not showing honour to folk yourself. This is an everybody command, not just for leaders- though of course leaders must take heed of it too! Are we showing honour to another? Are we taking the lead in showing honour? Are we making it normal?
Our last point is…
Obey – Obey and Serve God (Fervently) v11
This one isn’t specifically about how we treat one another, though elsewhere in Scripture we all called to submit to one another, and to our leaders in church, but we’re not going to deal with that now! What we’re called to here is to obey and serve God, but as we’ve seen serving God is seen in practice in serving one another. In whatever context we serve though, what is highlighted here is the manner! Zeal! Fervency! Here again we’ve moved from the outside to the inside, from action to attitude. Do we serve the Lord fervently? As I read that I feel a sting of rebuke at my too cold heart! Where is my fervency? Where is my zeal? Like a marriage it’s very easy for the passion to go cold isn’t it? But here we have the words zeal – meaning enthusiasm, haste, yet so often we can feel slow and unenthusiastic. We have the word fervent- meaning boiling hot! Yet so often we are lukewarm at best aren’t we? If we relate to any word here I reckon for most of it’s probably ‘slothful’, ‘lazy’, ‘lethargic’ -exactly what we’re called not to be!
If our love is to be unhypocritical it must involve some passion, some enthusiasm. I think this looks different for all of us, but it probably looks more like enthusiasm than think it does- if that makes sense. We tend to excuse ourselves- may I delicately suggest that you might be wrong! That whatever it looks like for you, you could be probably have more zeal and fervour for the things of the Lord.
A good test is to think about your enthusiasm for other things. I get most worried about my spiritual state when I find myself more excited, more animated talking about something and nothing like fantasy novels or music, than I do about the things of God. For you it might be football or cop shows, or food, or politics? Some people are temperamentally unenthusiastic than others, but if you get enthused about other things then isn’t that a clue that that’s not really the case? Could it be you’re just excusing yourself? There must be some zeal there, some fervency of spirit, some chutzpa!
That said, we must beware though, there is a wrong sort of zeal. Paul comments in chapter 10 that the Jews of his day had zeal, but not according to knowledge. In other words they were zealous, but their zeal was misdirected because they had not acknowledged the righteousness that comes by faith, not by works. Paul says he was zealous before his conversion- zealous in persecuting the church! (Philippians 3:6).
Zeal without knowledge can be a problem, but I suspect in our circles the bigger problem is knowledge without zeal. But if we’re to build our enthusiasm we must think about the direction God wants our enthusiasm at go. It’s too easy to have enthusiasm about the wrong things: I LOVE this church! They have doughnuts after the meeting! I LOVE this song we sing at church! It’s got this amazing guitar riff! I LOVE the Bible! There are so many amazing facts in there! Being zealous about those things is not wrong Though I might want to argue a bit misdirected, but it’s not even being fervent in our singing it’s talking about- which is a common misconception I think- again not a bad thing!
What it’s talking about here is that God wants us to be zealous in our service, in our serving, literally in our slaving for Him. That is where our enthusiasm is to be directed- our service. Really it’s another way of talking about verse 1, laying down our lives as living sacrifices to God. That is our reasonable service, our true worship, and think about what this verse means for that: We’re to do it eagerly! We’re to do it enthusiastically! We’re to do it with all our hearts! We’re not to give up! We’re to be passionate about it!
Could you imagine? *Boring voice* “Take my life transform renew and change me, that I might be a living sacrifice”. How is unenthusiastic service glorifying to God? How is half-hearted apathetic serving anything but dishonouring to God? It’s treating God like he was some middle manager you just have to obey, but you’re not going to enjoy it! It’s hypocrisy in a sense, doing it, but not feeling it.
Now I know many of us feel that keenly at points. For some their answer to the hypocrisy is to stop trying to serve the Lord at all, but that’s the wrong way to go about it. Instead we need to take a look inside and do some work there. We need to take all three of his commands here seriously. He tells us not to be lacking in zeal! Do we treat that as seriously as commands like do not steal or do not kill? We need to take those inside commands seriously.
So how do we raise our enthusiasm for service? Can I make some suggestions in just one area- serving each other? There are other areas; how we serve God at work, how se serve God in evangelism, how we serve God in various ways on Sundays or in practical matters of the running of the church, but this morning I just want to focus on that area of everyday, personal, informal, serving of our brothers and sisters, of loving them, encouraging them, caring for them, honouring them, as that seems to the focus of the passage as a whole. How do we raise our enthusiasm in that area? Three suggestions
If serving of others is feeling a slog, if you’re growing wearing of doing good, then why not mix it up a little? Could you try to serve others without them knowing it’s you? Doing a bit of James Bond or the man from Milk Tray if you’re old enough to remember those adverts! You know- dropping off notes or parcels without being seen, sending anonymous encouragements. If you’re no good at words and cards, could you bake a cake for someone who’s finding it hard at the moment? Could you have a BBQ and have the goal in your head of having one good conversation with one person you’ve invited there about something you’ve been learning at church? If you’re really no good at cooking or baking, could you get fish and chips? Could you do a flashmob Bible study in a group of 6 or less? You and a friend or couple of friends arrange a rendez-vous on a bench somewhere?
Sometimes serving God will involve things that are boring and will be a slog. I have to do my tax return at some point as part of my service. I cannot think of a way to make that anything but boring! I find it hard to get enthusiastic about that, but most of the time, especially in the area, of service to one another it doesn’t have to be boring and a slog. Putting a bit of thought into it can aide our enthusiasm.
Be in it for the long term
Enthusiasm for serving one another takes time. The more we know and love someone the more zealous we will be to help them. I am more likely to genuinely care for someone I have known a while, who I have served alongside, who I have shared a bit of my life with. Be enthusiastic about the service of others. If we want to have a culture where enthusiastic service is normal, where acts of love and service are valued, then we need to be enthusiastic about the service of others.
It goes back to that idea of showing honour to people who serve. If our norm is that we never honour people, if our norm is that we never even thank people, then we shouldn’t be surprised if our service goes unnoticed or unhonoured. Are we people who are always picking holes in the service of others, or do we look for things to commend them for? Feedback has a place: We want to excel in our service to the Lord don’t we! To do it the best we can! Feedback can help! But in general people need your enthusiasm more than your critique. If we want to encourage service in ourselves and others we need to more Len Goodmans than Craig Revel Hallwoods! More David Walliams than Simon Cowells! In fact most of the time we need to come off the judging panel all together! More of this in chapter 14!
It comes back to how we feel about other Christians? Do we love them? Do we want to serve and honour them? Do we want to love, honour and obey? Or actually do we secretly judge them, look down on them. Is that what we mean when we say we don’t have to like them? Do we look down on what they do because ‘I could have done it better’? Do we treat them as bound to us for better for worse? A man who loves his wife loves himself, equally A man or woman who loves their church loves themselves! We’re bound together- we need to love and serve the other in humility, or are we only out for what we can get, rather what we can give? Do you know what I mean? We sit there and think, “I hope everyone else is listening to this! I might finally get some honour and thanks! Might finally get what I deserve!” But if you think it’s a message for everyone else, but not you then that’s probably a clue that you’ve not quite understood it! Like the husband or wife who goes to marriage counselling so that the counsellor can sort out the other person!
We are to love and honour each other, in obedience to God. Loving like brothers, honouring like crazy, and obeying our God with all our hearts. Let’s pray that all of us would take this message to heart.