Week 4- What Does God Want Me to Experience?
Real Community Can Only Be Experienced by Real People Really Going Beyond the Ordinary!
We all have a deep need inside of us to belong. This causes many people to look in every direction for where they can belong. Real Community can be experienced and it starts with an Inward focus, being the real you that God created. From there it moves to an outward focus genuinely caring for others. Then as we keep an upward focus, knowing we are living for someone bigger than ourselves it will cause us to walk with others who are like minded. These focuses keep us moving forward. This is Real Community!
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (Romans 12:9-13)
1. Who were your closest friends growing up? Share your best story of hanging out with them?
2. Were you more loyal to those close friends than any other people? Why or why not?
3. Have you ever been a part of a group tasked with accomplishing a goal even though the group lacked unity? What was that like? What happened?
4. Have you ever been a part of a group united for a common goal or purpose? How did that impact you personally? How did the relationships in the group deepen as you worked with one another?
Because evil always leads to pain and destruction, a hatred of evil will always accompany true love. This type of love sets the tone for the remainder of the passage on the generous nature of followers of Christ as they concentrate on the needs of others in a family.
5. Why is it difficult to love some people? Since God emphasizes loving one another, what causes us to feel like we have a choice of how we will respond to others?
6. How can we lovingly speak to someone about a difference we may have with them?
7. What are some ways our culture tends to make us self-centered?
8. How do the behaviors in these verses affect your attitude toward serving other believers?
9. How can the command to share with other people and practice hospitality help us build real community?
The primary way we experience the benefits that we have studied today is through small group community. How have you benefited from uniting with the family of God in a small group environment?
Who do we know that needs to be part of a real community? How can we get them in one?
Is there anything we can do to better to support one another and continue to create this real community spoken of in these verses?
12:9. The final thirteen verses of this chapter defy outlining. At best, it is possible to identify the hilltops that poke above the plain of Paul’s thought on the topic of love. If a single theme is to be identified, it would have to be “love in the face of evil,” as that is Paul’s first word— hate what is evil; cling to what is good—and his last—”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21). Almost every other evidence of love he mentions will fit under this theme. The question is, Whence the evil, or persecution, that was tempting the Rome believers to retaliate instead of love?
Most certainly, it could have been from Rome. Within a decade of Paul’s writing this letter, he himself would die under Rome’s sword. The wickedly infamous Nero was Emperor at the time of Paul’s writing, and while the worst of his atrocities against Christians did not occur until nearer the end of his reign, there was steadily growing pressure against Christians. Jews had already suffered in Rome, having been expelled from the city several years before the writing of this letter by the emperor Claudius, who ruled prior to Nero (Acts 18:2).
But Paul’s words could possibly have been directed in reference to strife within the Roman church itself. Jewish and Gentile conflicts were not new in the early church, and it is quite possible that animosities had developed to the extent that words like “vengeance,” “conceit,” and “enemy” were not out of place among the fellowship in Rome. Given that Paul addresses both categories (the civil situation in chap. 13 and the internal, church situation in chaps. 14-15), it is likely that both were fueling his thoughts on love in this section.
The love of which Paul speaks is, of course, agape, the selfless, unconditional expression of grace and compassion exemplified by the love of God for sinners (John 3:16; Rom. 5:5,8). Just as nothing can separate the believer from the benefits of God’s agape (Rom. 8:35,39), so nothing should be able to come between a believer and his or her love for sinners (Rom. 13:10; 14:15). By dissecting sincere, it is easy to see what Paul means. Anupokritos is simply the negative (negative prefix “ a” plus “n”) of hupokrites, from which derives our “hypocrite.” Therefore, sincere is not hypocritical. “Hypocrite” was used in the Greek world of the actor who wore masks to portray the emotion of his character—sincere Christians wear no masks. What you see is (should be) what you get, and Paul says that others should see love. It would be hypocritical to hate what is good and cling to what is evil; therefore, hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
12:10. Was Paul thinking of David’s Song of Ascents in Psalm 133 when he exhorted the Rome believers to be devoted to one another in brotherly love?: Or was he thinking of how eleven of the sons of Jacob turned on their brother Joseph out of jealousy and anger and consigned him to Midianite slavery? Could he even have been thinking back seven years earlier when he and Barnabas “had such a sharp disagreement” that they could not continue ministering together (Acts 15:36-41)? Only those who are living sacrifices to God could possibly carry out the exhortation to honor one another above yourselves. “Looking out for number one” may be a modern mantra, but it was written in the Garden of Eden. Considering others better than yourselves (Phil. 2:3) is just as offensive to the ancient carnal mind as it is to the modern one. Only a renewed mind can tell that it is the “good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2) of God.
Paul’s special commendation of the believers in Thessalonica for how they loved “the brothers throughout Macedonia” is worthy of note (1 Thess. 4:9-10), especially since Paul seems to indicate that they learned to do so from God (as opposed to a human instrument such as Paul or another apostle).
12:11. Here Paul touches a theme mentioned to the Corinthian church after a long exposition concerning the future resurrection of the body, the putting on of immortality for eternity. Though that is not the subject here, maintaining zeal in service is, especially in the face of persecution or partisanship. He told the Corinthians, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
12:12. While Paul refers to life in the church in verse 10 (referring to “brotherly love”), here is the first hint of persecution— Be. . . patient in affliction. Paul, no stranger to affliction for the sake of the gospel, stated a principle in Acts 14:22 which summarizes what he is beginning to share with the believers in Rome: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Only the believer who has made a decision to be a living sacrifice can maintain zeal and patience in affliction. Joy in hope was a theme in Romans 5:2, as was prayer in Romans 8:26-27. Once again we see Paul going back to the doctrinal part of his letter and making application for the present situation. The knowledge that the Holy Spirit is able to intercede through us in times of trouble can be a lifeline to the other side of the quagmire.
12:13. Another evidence of a living sacrifice is a person who gives generously. Does sharing with God’s people who are in need, and the exhortation to practice hospitality, refer just to materially poor believers in Rome, or to those who have been made poor or destitute through persecution and affliction? Here is a good example of a practice that has been mentioned as a grace-gift in some believers’ lives—giving (v. 8) to meet the needs of others— being presented as a responsibility of the church at large. Certainly some believers have been gifted and resourced by God so as to be able to give more than others, but all believers have a responsibility to practice hospitality and meet the needs of God’s people.