February 14, 2019
Romans, the Way of Love, and Evangelism
I hope you’ve kept up in our reading of Romans. If so, we’ve been in Romans 12 this week. As I read through this chapter, I’m struck by what Paul is pointing out. He lists several gifts that may be given to some of us: Prophecy, preaching, exhortation, ministry, giving, leading, compassion.
That list isn’t exhaustive, but it is interesting. We’d agree that not everyone has the spiritual gift of preaching or prophecy. But giving? Compassion? Those seem like qualities all followers of Jesus should have. But Paul seems to be saying here that some folks will be particularly gifted in those areas.
But that’s not even the most interesting thing to me in this chapter. After we get through that list of qualities that some folks might have more than others, Paul then hits us right between the eyes with a quality he assumes all followers of Jesus will have in abundance: Love.
I love the way The Message translation puts it: “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” (Romans 12:9-10).
This isn’t optional. We’ve heard it a bunch over the past few months, as the Presiding Bishop and his team have shared the message of love around the world. We have The Way of Love, and all of its many resources. And Bishop Curry has preached many moving sermons on the power of love. One of the best I’ve heard was last week at the DART Clergy Conference (a community organizing group).
Paul gives us his take on the way of love in Romans 12, outlining what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In verses 9-13, I count 13 things Paul tells us we should do:
- Let love be genuine.
- Hate what is evil.
- Hold fast to what is good.
- Love one another with mutual affection.
- Outdo one another in showing honor.
- Do not be lag in zeal.
- Be ardent in spirit.
- Serve the Lord.
- Rejoice in hope.
- Be patient in suffering.
- Persevere in prayer.
- Contribute to the needs of the saints.
- Extend hospitality to strangers. (We’ve talked about that one before.)
Thirteen easy steps to be a follower of Jesus. Simple enough, right? Easier said than done, is more like it.
But back to the list of spiritual gifts Paul lists at the beginning of this chapter. What else is missing?
True, Paul does say in Ephesians that some are called to be Evangelists. But that doesn’t get the rest of us off the hook. We all are called to practice evangelism.
Because practicing evangelism is the same thing as practicing love.
Go through that list of 13 qualities of a follower of Jesus...a follower of the Way of Love.
Loving other people? That’s sharing the good news that God loves us all.
Being patient in suffering? That’s sharing the good news that God is with us in times of trouble.
Being persistent in prayer? That’s sharing the good news that God listens, and that God speaks.
We don’t like to talk about evangelism sometimes. Barna has some new research on that. But perhaps that’s because we think “evangelism” is something special, something we need training to do.
But it’s not. Evangelism is sharing the hope that lies within us (“rejoice in hope,” from Paul’s way of love). Evangelism is sharing the ways God has worked - and is working - in our lives. Evangelism is showing the world how siblings in Christ engage one another. Evangelism is showing hospitality to those not like us. Simply put, evangelism is following the way of love. Evangelism is following Jesus.
This blog is part of a series for the Good Book Club. Learn more about the Good Book Club here.