Paul is moving into what a true Christian looks like. This is not a list of “do’s” that will get one into Heaven but the mark of Jesus’ love on one’s heart. Only through the Spirit can one hope to display the kind of love Paul is calling us to.
The first instruction we are given is to “Let love be genuine” (verse 9a). That’s a great place to start. We are to love because Christ loved us. This love is not conditional on what the other person does or doesn’t do. I know I’m not very loveable at times but He still loves me. That is genuine and true love.
While loving the person we are also told to “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (verse 9b). As I’ve heard it said many times, “hate the sin not the sinner.” That is exactly what Jesus did, and still does to this day.
Paul then puts his instructions into everyday terms we can all understand. We are told to love one another properly, to honor one another greatly, to be excited about sharing the gospel, and to serve the Lord joyfully.
To our brothers and sisters, rejoice with them, weep with them, help them when they are in need, and live in harmony with them. To those who persecute you, rejoice with them, weep with them, help them when they are in need, and live in harmony with them.
Funny how those two lists are the same. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. It is not too difficult to love those who are like you and treat you well, but that is not where we are told to contain our love. We are even told to forego revenge against those who wrong us. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (verses 20-21).
I know; we skipped a part. The part about heaping burning coals on our enemy’s head. When you are angry with someone this part sounds so appealing, but what is it really saying? Am I supposed to hurt someone by being nice to them? How does that work?
Here is what I think; take it for what it’s worth. The “burning coals” are from the Holy Spirit. He melts their hearts through our kindness. Treating those who are evil to you with love instead is exactly what Jesus did. We are to love them right into the Kingdom. Let the Spirit work on their minds and hearts with His holy fire.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (verse 18). This is definitely an act that can only be accomplished by the Spirit working in you. I will tell you right now that this is something I struggle with too. Sometimes that struggle is right in my own home instead of out there with the enemy.
I also want to make sure you know that this is not a call to be a “door mat” and to never stand up against evil. Jesus confronted evil when He encountered it and He still lived peaceably. His secret again was to “hate the sin and not the sinner” and to quickly forgive when wronged.
Lord Jesus, You set a VERY high example for this command. I fall SO far short of Your calling. I cannot do this on my own. Please help me allow Your Holy Spirit more control in my life. Help me to show Your love at all times and to all people. Help me live in peace, even in un-peaceful situations. Help me display my “birthmark”; Your love living in me.