Week of December 4

Where Does the Love-Chime Hang in Your Church?

Read: Romans 9-12
“Let love be genuine.”
Romans 12:9a, ESV


Francis Schaeffer once said, “Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful—Christian community is the final apologetic.” Schaeffer’s words hold deep moral implications for our often-anemic fellowship within the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul provides the nourishment that will rejuvenate the church and he does so in two simple Greek words (lit. “love genuine”). We supply the verb and the urgency when we translate what he writes as “Let love be genuine.” We all say it, but how do we put our hearts and hands to work as one to make love effective?

Understanding the Bible Context

An all-encompassing ethic of love
I have chosen today to focus on love. It is no accident, in my view, that Paul begins his list of ethical prescriptions with love (12:9a). The primacy of love, in a list of vital moral standards, gives us a true glimpse into how the church flourishes in any age. It also signals to us that the impact of the other ethical standards is strengthened or weakened by the way love is exercised.
Therefore, Paul places a protective border around the love virtue by saying that it is to be free from hypocrisy or deception. In an era of fake news and cheap love, these words certainly ring true. The Reformer, John Calvin, once said, “It is difficult to express how ingenious almost all men are in counterfeiting a love which they do not really profess” (NAC). In other words, we must never disguise nefarious aims beneath a cloak of love.
An powerful ethical approach for daily application
Romans 12:9-13 represents one of the most powerful ethical collection of injunctions in all of Paul’s New Testament writings. He states 13 exhortations in five brief verses that really grow from within the command, “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (12:9-13). The lack of finite verbs provides the power behind these commands. Ten participles carry the force of imperatives, and then we supply an imperative verb in the remaining three mandates (NAC). Like booster shots, each new moral imperative provides life-saving moral nourishment to every serious believer. These thirteen ethical exhortations establish a “pathway” for moral living.
They offer us key behaviors for effective Christian living. I group them concentrically in my mind. The inner circle includes virtue. The idea is that we are to behave as “great souls” by going out of our way to show respect for the intrinsic worth in others (12:10, “honor”). Disciples of Christ are distinctly “pro-life” for all.
The circle widens when Paul exhorts us, so to speak, to “work till Jesus comes.” We should never become lethargic; instead, we are always to radiate the Spirit, and seek to serve the Lord (12:11; Galatians 5:22-23).
The circle widens more when we live realistically in an evil age (12:11). People are watching to see upon what/who we base our hope, especially when we suffer (1 Peter 3:15-17)! Prayer will sustain us in these circumstances (12:12c; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Lastly, the broadest circle includes the readiness to show consistent Christian hospitality through our generosity. This life-view enables others to be blessed (12:13). Paul would have nothing of GoFundMe-ism in that generation where people gave toward that which they were momentarily inspired. Hospitality was to be a lifestyle for the serious disciple at that time because motels for travelers were scarce. Opening the home to people begins first with a heart that has welcomed Christ.

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

We have some wonderful friends, Mark and Joanne Corley, who gave us a memorial gift in the summer of 2021 following the sudden passing of Shawna’s oldest brother, Greg Henry. The treasure is a wind chime! I admittedly am not a “wind chime all the time” fellow; however, this one has a deep rich tone to it. Anyway, the harmonious sounds call to my mind the most wonderful memories about our departed loved one.
We have before us a wonderful context for learning the Christian walk—the church. First, Paul makes love the “wind chime” from which the various character traits of disciples are suspended (12:9, “Let love be genuine”). Love, as Paul also has written, is not a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1-1). I think we will do well to hang a “Love-Chime” in each of our church communities. Our lives become melodious when the Spirit’s wind blows across them.
Secondly, we are one body in Christ; therefore, we will exhibit the essence of the law, which is love, in all of our relationships (Romans 12:5, 9a, 10, “Let love be genuine”; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:30-31). We should never use the love of Christ as a mask for hurtful motives.
Thirdly, our ethic of love—what we ought to be and do—should stem from a core moral principle of seeking that which is good and doing what is right (12:9b, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good”). We live in an era where superheroes are deeply flawed and will, at times, even do that which is morally questionable. This moral reversal may make for good cinema, but it creates poor culture. Paul exhorts us to shape our church communities by this law of the Spirit (cf. 8:2, “law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus”)! Francis Schaeffer also says, “If we do not show love to one another, the world has a right to question whether Christianity is true.”

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. Paul develops his theology in chapters 1-11, and then provides his practical ethics in chapters 12-16. It is fitting that he sums up all that God did for us, and expects of us, in two simple Greek words that call us to similar action. Love genuinely each day! So, look carefully around you at your church fellowship. If your outreach seems ineffective, then perhaps it is due to weak in-reach (a love deficiency). The first key step to effective community ministry is taken within your own church family. Love purely those within the Body of Christ.

2. For Families: Parents, we know that sarcasm is one of the most hurtful ways to ruin a love relationship. It causes us distress to hear our children use it toward their friends, each other, and with us. The admonition to “love genuinely” has immediate application for our families and the way we treat each other.

A supper conversation starter can get your middle, older, and teen children to think through their “love responses” to each other. Bring a lovely-sounding wind chime to the table, and a some sort of horn or toy that emits an irksome noise. Write a number of scenarios on a small card (normal family routines), and have each person draw a card, read the scenario, and offer two responses: one would be helpful and loving (shake the wind chime), and the other would be biting or sarcastic or negative (blow the noisy blast!).

Make this lighthearted, fun, and even exaggerated, but bring home the point at the end of your time together. Our words and actions should stem from love that is genuine and constant. This is how we please God and live in peace with our closest neighbors, our family!
Hang the wind chime where your children can remember its meaning.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock