Romans 12 contains some of my favorite verses in Scripture. The chapter begins with these two…
Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Those two frame up the rest of the chapter, drawing this contrast between conforming to the patterns of this world/age or conforming to the patterns of Christ and His Word. For example, verses 9-18, paint for us a picture of what loving one another looks like.
Romans 12:9-18: 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
So if those verses give us a beautiful picture of how Christ followers are to live and love in light of having received the mercies of God (Romans 12:1), and a picture of what it looks like to worship the Lord in our relationships; then how would we describe the opposing view? The picture that conforms to the patterns of this world or age? It would look like this…
“Let love be hypocritical. A love that pretends to love others, but is simply just putting on a mask. That expresses love outwardly, but is ultimately indifferent inwardly. So don’t let your love be genuine or honest, just play to the crowd or person that you’re with. And then simply choose another mask when you’re with another person.
Cling to what is evil. Detest what is good. So when you see this hypocritical, actor-like love within you. Be ok with it. Don’t repent. Just say to yourself, well that is the way I am. I don’t want to change. Live a life that straddles the fence, as if that is comfortable. Live a life that says, I’m ok with ongoing sin in my life, as long as no one else knows about it.
Love one another as much as it is obligated of you. I mean, just try and hit the bare minimum. And those brothers and sisters who are not like you, or who you disagree with, or who grind on your nerves, or who have sinned against you in the past, ignore them. Cut them out of your life. In fact, let’s not use the word love, let’s simply tolerate one another. Let’s not see the believers around us as siblings, because that picture would demand too much of us.
And when it comes to honor…only honor those who honor you first. Only reciprocate love and honor, but never initiate. Again, the goal is bare minimum. The goal is a hypocritical and disingenuous love. So just throw some words around when necessary, but don’t put any action behind them. Don’t follow through. Don’t follow up. Don’t find ways to honor and encourage others. Again, the goal is to get others to honor and encourage you. Because it’s about you. It should always be about you.
Be apathetic in your faith and walk with the Lord. You made a decision for the Lord when you were 5, 15, 25, 35…back then. So you don’t have to be persistent, intentional, or disciplined in your faith. You can just be lukewarm. As long as you are a wee bit warmer than the people around you, that’s enough. Bare minimum. So just attend a Sunday service once in a while, but when it comes to the other 6 days of the week, look to serve yourself. Make sure your calendar and your money, serve you. Don’t be concerned about growing in your understanding of the living Word or God or talking to your Father in Heaven in prayer. Be apathetic. Be lazy.
And when you hit trials or tests in life, don’t rejoice. Don’t be a person of hope. Don’t be patient or persistent. But be hopeless, and let all those around you know of your hopelessness. Be scattered in prayer. Pray in those desperate times, and when they are not neatly resolved in 24 hours, then assume that your Father in Heaven has forsaken you.
And when it comes to the stuff you own, listen, you’re the owner. So don’t share. Don’t be generous. And if you feel like you must to keep up appearances and that hypocritical love, then just give the bare minimum. When you see fellow believers in need, expect someone else will take care of that need. Or that the government or that ‘the church’ should take care of it. But don’t see yourself as part of ‘the church’ or the avenue in which God might help a child of His.
And not just your stuff, but your house, or your apartment…that is your castle. Your domain. So don’t invite others over. Don’t welcome others. When you look at your calendar, don’t look for open slots of time to enjoy fellowship with others. Don’t see your house as a tool for ministry and mission. I mean ministry and mission happen at the church building, but not individual houses.
And when a believer hurts you, attacks you, sins against you, turn around and slander their character to others because that is one way to get back at them. Speak poorly of them. Curse their name. Cut them off. Unfriend them. Unfollow them. They hurt you, so why would you ever love or bless them.
And when someone receives a blessing, be envious of them. Don’t rejoice. Why did they get that job? Why did they get that scholarship? How do good things come their way, and not my way? Be jealous. Hold people at arm’s length, especially when someone is grieving. Because you might say something wrong, or not know what to say, so just assume someone else will comfort them. Simply settle for a social media connection, that again, just keeps people at arm’s length.
And be ok with division, disunity, disharmony. Because I’m sure it is their fault, and that you bear no responsibility. Because our pride won’t admit that. So be proud. Make relationships about you. You’re the one who is always in the right. And when you come across people who are of a different social class than you, ignore them. You’re better than they are. You’re less in need of the mercies of God, than they are.
And when evil is done to you, then return it with evil. Because why would you be obligated to do anything other than that? Why would you want to love your enemies, or bless those who persecute you, or pray for those who have done evil to you? I mean, who cares about your testimony to others. Or how others view you.
And finally, when you’re in conflict with someone, when you’re not at peace, wait on them to go first. That will really feed your pride. If they want to reconcile or make right, then they are welcome to come to you. But until then, you just sit. Don’t take action. Don’t be persistent in prayer. Don’t seek harmony. It is on them.
Let your love be passive, indifferent, selfish, and hypocritical.”
And if we conform to the patterns of this world, that is the type of so called love that we will reflect.
But brothers and sisters, dear ones, those who have first been loved by Jesus with a relentless, sacrificial, selfless love, we’ve received the mercies of God. In light of the mercies of God and in light of how greatly He has loved us and shown us how to love, we must walk in a new way. A way that seeks a growing conformity to Christ, rather than this world. May the Word of God shape and transform how we live and love others.