Paul boldly challenges the Roman Church, and us, to “speak blessing, not cursing.” All of us, from every generation, need the reminder that love without action is not love at all. Love is a verb!
Though many themes ebb and flow through his writing to the Roman church, personally none pierces my heart more than the theme of grace. The study of this epistle a few years ago reformed my thinking and rearranged my heart to love in a new way.
Love is a verb, not a thought or emotional response. As a new Christian, I prayed, “Lord teach me to love.” I knew as clearly then, as I do now, that love requires a breaking of my self-centered, self-righteous, independent motivations. God alone gives the ability to love in a genuine, transforming way.
Grace and love flow outward to the deserving and undeserving.
Mankind prefers rather to
crush and control,
condemn and judge,
manipulate and intimidate,
strong over the weak,
healthy over the sick,
wealthy over the poor.
This ungodly propensity exists in every culture — Christian and non-Christian. Paul calls for an intentional turn-around in these natural tendencies, no matter how justified we may feel.
“Let the inner movement of your heart
always be to love one another,
and never play the role of an actor wearing a mask.
Despise evil and embrace everything that is good and virtuous.
Be devoted to tenderly loving your
fellow believers as members of one family.
Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another.”
I once read Neigel Bigpond’s story:
“My mother was sick in the hospital, and I went to visit her one day. When she opened her eyes, she looked at me and said, “Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“It means I love you,” she replied.
“I love you, too.”
My mother responded, “No son, you don’t understand. Our Yuchi word for “I love you” is not like English… “Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot” means, “You are like a river that brings me life, and without you I cannot exist.”
That’s loving like God. Surrendering to Him so completely that others “are like a river that brings life and without them we know we cannot exist.” Quite frankly, God is asking for the impossible.
God knows I can’t! I know it, too! So He gave us the key to loving fully.
” Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord,
keeping your passion toward him boiling hot!
Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and
let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”
Love comes from God through the Holy Spirit. God is love — strong, unmasked, raw, pure. Only in passionate, “boiling hot,” relationship with Him will that love be evident in any of us. The dissipating of love in any dimension should drive us to our knees, “Lord, set us ablaze! Holy Spirit burn in us!”
Love is a verb! Active and powerful!
Circle of Love
Paul identifies the elements found within the larger sphere of love.
“Let this hope burst forth within you,
releasing a continual joy.
Don’t give up in a time of trouble,
but commune with God at all times.
Take a constant interest in the needs of God’s beloved people
and respond by helping them.
And eagerly welcome people as guests into your home.”
Another version says, “patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.” Love hangs in there faithfully praying. At the same time, a season of withdrawing from gross dysfunction or severe abuse may be absolutely necessary.
I have helped people recede from unhealthy relationships, giving individuals time to regain personal health and wholeness. The goal of the separation isn’t to harm, but rather to restore.
“Freedom is not the license to do whatever we want;
freedom is the choice to love.”
– Danny Silk
Love is a Blessing
I cannot imagine a life without love — either the pure joy of loving others or experiencing being known and loved. Love is a blessing, a grace gift from heaven.
“Speak blessing, not cursing,
over those who reject and persecute you.”
The things that come from our mouths disclose the reality within our hearts. When communication becomes judgmental and negative, we can be sure we have a serious heart condition.
Words are indicators and predictors!
The words of our mouth create the highway of our future — whether the way of blessing or cursing.
When David became an object of cursing and scorn, he appealed to God for help and strength. He gives a warning to his mockers.
“He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.”
Negative talk about others deeply affects our own health — spiritually and physically, individually and corporately. How important to speak blessing!
Just like love is a verb, so is blessing. Blessing goes far beyond the words of our mouths spilling out through active care for others. Paul lays down concrete ways to demonstrate a heart that releases blessing.
“Celebrate with those who celebrate,
and weep with those who grieve.
Live happily together in a spirit of harmony,
and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own.
Don’t live with a lofty mind-set,
thinking you are too important to serve others
but be willing to do menial tasks and
identify with those who are humble minded.”
promoting others when we would rather be promoted,
serving from a state of fatigue and personal need,
setting aside personal agendas to elevate those around us.
Love is a verb – selfless and fearless!
Love conquers with blessing. God’s instruction through Paul becomes even more difficult:
“Never hold a grudge or try to get even,
but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.
Do your best to live as everybody’s friend…
If your enemy is hungry, buy him lunch!…
Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.”
This is where I often feel overwhelmed. I hear within these lines a call to Christian extremism showing extreme love and compassion to our most oppressive enemies and most aggressive persecutors.
“Through the power of Christ’s blood,
we can exchange such things as curses for blessings;
guilt for purity; sickness for health;
lack for provision; sorrow for joy;
slavery for freedom; and death for eternal life.”
– C. & R. Wagner
How? In Christ and Christ alone! Unless the fire of Holy Spirit burns intensely within us, we will miss this incredible opportunity to live, love and bless. “Set us ablaze, Lord, and start with me.”