Verses 9–13 deal with the importance of demonstrating love to fellow believers, and verses 14–16 broaden this responsibility to include wider application to non-believers. Note this passage’s similarity with Jesus’ instructions in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7).
“From the thought of humility the idea of love naturally follows, for humility will necessarily express itself in affection for those around.”
“Nowhere else in Paul’s writings do we find a more concise collection of ethical injunctions. In these five verses are thirteen exhortations ranging from love of Christians to hospitality for strangers. There are no finite verbs in the paragraph. There are, however, ten participles that serve as imperatives. In the three other clauses (vv. 9, 10, 11) an imperative must be supplied. Each of the thirteen exhortations could serve as the text for a full-length sermon. What they deal with are basic to effective Christian living.”
Paul presents his people with ten telegraphic rules for ordinary, everyday life. What relationship does this section have to what has come before it? A few scholars think that vv. 9–21 continue the discussion of community relationships in vv. 3–8, perhaps with special reference to the community’s exercise of gifts. But v. 9, which is not tied syntactically to vv. 3–8, creates a break, both in style and in content. We are, then, to view vv, 9–21 as a further elaboration of that “good” which the person who is being transformed by the renewing of the mind approves of (v. 2) (Constable 170–171, Griffith Thomas, Mounce, Moo 774).
SOME KEY IDEAS FROM THIS WEEK’S PASSAGE
Theme of Love- Two related unresolved matters are the issues of theme and relationship to context. Black’s structural proposal highlights the opening call for genuine love in v. 9a as the overall topic of the section. And most scholars would agree that love, which Paul spotlights again in 13:8–10 as the fulfillment of the law, is basic to the section. But it is basic not in the sense that every exhortation is a direct exposition of what love is, but basic in the sense that it is the underlying motif of the section. Paul is not always talking specifically about love, but he keeps coming back to love as the single most important criterion for approved Christian behavior.
After introducing all the exhortations in vv. 9–21 with a call for sincere love, Paul now narrows his focus, admonishing Christians to be “devoted” (philostorgoi) to one another in “brotherly love” (philadelphia). Both key terms in this exhortation, which share the philo- stem, convey the sense of family relationships.” Paul here reflects the early Christian understanding of the church as an extended family, whose members, bound together in intimate fellowship, should exhibit toward one another a heartfelt and consistent concern.
Another dimension of Christian love is the practice of hospitality. The need to give shelter and food to visitors was great in the NT world, there being few hotels or motels. And the need among Christians was exacerbated by the many traveling missionaries and other Christian workers. Hence the NT frequently urges Christians to offer hospitality to others (see 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet 4:9). But Paul does more than that here: he urges us to “pursue” it — to go out of our way to welcome and provide for travelers.
There is a verbal connection with v. 13: “pursue [hospitality]” and “persecutors” translate the same Greek verb. More important, however, is the thematic connection with V. 9: blessing persecutors is one manifestation of that “sincere love” which shuns evil and clings to the good. And it is certainly one of the most striking exhibitions of that transformed way of thinking which is to characterize believers (v. 2). In the Scriptures, “blessing” is typically associated with God; he “possesses and dispenses all blessings.” To “bless” one’s persecutors, therefore, is to call on God to bestow his favor upon them. Its opposite is, of course, cursing — asking God to bring disaster and/or spiritual ruin on a person. By prohibiting cursing as well as enjoining blessing, Paul stresses the sincerity and single-mindedness of the loving attitude we are to have toward our persecutors. (Moo 774, 777, 780).
MISSIONAL QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- How does this text challenge your preconceived notions about the life of a follower of Jesus?
- How does this passage further improve the way you’d share the Gospel with someone?
- What do you feel the Spirit calling you to do based on the truths of this text?
- What might you need to confess and repent of based on this passage?
- How does this passage challenge the way you lead or participate in your microchurch?
- In what ways does this text call you to align your heart with God’s?