Sometimes you come across a passage of Scripture that could take several months of sermons to explore. This is true of today’s reading. With sentences coming at us in rapid-fire fashion, it demands a great degree of reflection. Since I’m not planning an extended series at this moment, I will try to refrain from dwelling too long in every nook and cranny of Paul’s message.
Each statement is an imperative sentence that speaks to what it means to live the Christian life. It’s fitting that this reading comes on Labor Day Weekend, because it will take a lot of work to fulfill Paul’s expectations.
The key to this passage is the call to “let love be genuine” (vs. 9). Everything that follows is an expression of genuine love. It’s not romantic love. It’s not just friendship. It’s Agape love. When it comes to defining love, I’ve been turning to theologian Tom Oord for help. His basic definition goes like this:
To love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to God and others, to promote overall well-being. [The Nature of Love: A Theology, p. 17].
When it comes to the agape form of love, he defines it as “acting intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being in response to that which produces ill-being.” This means, do what is good for the other, “in spite of evil previously inflicted” (p. 56). This is the kind of love that Jesus had in mind when he spoke of loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27).