Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Rom. 12:13a (Holman) Share with the saints in their need;
“Saints” means all Christians. In a church, love must show itself in tangible ways. It ought to be seen in action. We are to do more than pray for one another. We are to help one another. Once a boy heard his dad pray God would help a particular poor family. After the prayer, the boy said, “Dad, I wish I had your money.” “Why?” asked the father. “Because I would answer your prayer for you.”
May God give us the spirit of the man who was reading aloud written prayer requests at a public prayer meeting. He came to the request of a poor widow asking that her distress might be relieved. He started to read it aloud, but then said instead, “We won’t trouble the Lord with that, I will attend to it myself.” May the Lord grant us a love that reveals itself materially. “Share with the saints in their need.”
Rom. 12:13b . . .pursue hospitality.
Christianity is the faith of the open hand—“sharing with the saints”—and also of the open door—“pursue hospitality.” Be ready always to welcome fellow believers. Think of your house as a harbor. The selfish home cannot be a holy one. Even the house we live in should be yielded to God as an instrument of ministry.
Paul, being a traveler, fully understood this need. Hospitality was important in his day because many Christians were being banished and persecuted. Saints were sometimes hunted people, having no place of safety. They were hounded refugees, aliens dispersed through a hostile world. To receive such a one was punishable as a crime. It could be a dangerous deed, but was one Paul encouraged.
In addition to helping wayfarers and refugees, hospitality served a social purpose. The habitual practice of gathering together in houses broke down walls that divided people socially, economically, and culturally. It does the same today.
A major reason for the early church’s success was; she was nurtured in homes, not cathedrals. Without an “open door” policy, Christianity would have been much different. The Sunday School movement, one of the most effective outreach efforts in church history, was born in the kitchens of willing families.
The extensive ministry of many mighty servants would have never existed had it not been for the hospitality of God’s saints. Try to imagine how different history would have been had there been no homes to welcome Wesley, Whitefield, Asbury, and others. We should thank God for the thousands, yea millions, of people over the ages who have pursued hospitality.
Rom. 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Those who dog our steps, we are to win over with love. Christianity should yield its best fragrance when hard-pressed. The smell of a perfume bottle is most pungent when crushed. Weak Christians mirror what they receive from the world. To meet scorn with scorn is not Christlike. His followers should not revile others.
Only two types of accusations can be brought against us believers: true and false. If true, we have no right to be offended, and should repent before God.
If false, we still must not strike back. Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (MT 5:11-12).
“Do not curse” means we should not want God to pour out vengeance on our persecutors. We must pray God will bless them. Our Lord expects us to imitate Him, to subdue our bitter feelings and pray for the well-being of all who trouble us.
Our text contains one of the most difficult commands of Scripture to obey. We can often receive the power to not seek revenge. Sometimes we can even blot our persecutors from our thoughts. But rare indeed are the Christ-followers who can wish well to anyone who has hurt them. We must learn how to do this.
Remember we are crucified with Christ and must respond to our persecutors as He did on the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (LK 23:34). Also contemplate Stephen’s words, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (AC 7:60). He died praying for forgiveness for those who killed him.
Jesus and Stephen, the first two martyrs of the church, are our role models. Others followed their lead. When Sir Thomas More was sentenced to die, he prayed his judges would meet him in Heaven, to their everlasting salvation.
When it became obvious the French were going to invade Madagascar, the Christian natives of that land gathered to pray. They asked for faith to trust, and for eventual peace and goodwill. There were no prayers for revenge or cruelty toward the French. God help us all to bless those who persecute us, and to curse not.
Rom. 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
Love implies fellow-feeling, whether gladness or sadness. We are to let the condition of others become ours. All people are dear to God, and must therefore be dear to us. In ways we are islands, but Jesus came to bridge the gaps between us.
Some want to rejoice only over their own happiness, or weep only at their own misery. They are concerned only about their own private joy or grief. If they are healthy and doing well in business, this is all that matters. They could not care less about others. If on the other hand they are sick or poor, they are miserable no matter how much others are rejoicing. Selfish people grieve more over a headache or losing a dollar, than over the demise of a nation or the death of an acquaintance.
Learn well the lesson of our text. The people in our lives do not need our intelligence or skills nearly as much as they need to know they have our hearts.
When we find someone to rejoice with, the joy is doubled. We are able to expand someone else’s joy, and expand our own. Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Let people be happy. Do not always remind them of a problem or something negative. Let folks enjoy themselves every time they have opportunity to do so.
This admonition to rejoice with those who rejoice is harder to obey than we may initially realize. It is often more difficult to rejoice with rejoicers than to weep with weepers. Envy often tries to sneak in and mar the completeness of another’s happiness. To not be glad when someone else is glad is nothing short of jealousy.
“Weep with those who weep.” Let people cry and be sad. Do not try to stop them. It is good for them. It relieves the heart. Instead of trying to stop their tears, mix your tears with theirs. Tears are sooner dried when they run down the cheek of a friend in furrows of compassion.
True love takes the sorrows of another as its own. Not to grieve with others is unchristian. The true believer is one who would rather suffer grief alongside a brother or sister than look on from a distance and bask in pleasure and ease.
Christlikeness entails genuine sympathy. This was a beautiful trait of our Savior. Jesus felt what those around Him were feeling. The little child, the weeping widow, crying Mary, the widow who gave two mites, the humble publican, the downtrodden harlot—they all could grab Jesus’ emotions and run away with them.
We cannot be like Jesus until we are willing to tear down the wall around our heart and weep with the sorrowful. A story might help. Upon learning a friend of her servant had died, the mistress of the house went to share words of comfort, “I’m sorry to hear of your friend’s death. I know you’ll miss her greatly. You were such close friends.” The servant replied, “I am sorry she’s dead, but we weren’t friends.” The surprised mistress replied, “I thought you were friends. I’ve seen you laughing and talking together lots of times.” The servant replied, “Yes, we laughed and talked, but we were only acquaintances. We never shed tears together, and folks have to cry together before they are friends.”
Sincere sympathy is the only true way into another’s heart. To miss this door results in walking round and round the other person without entering their heart.