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Bryan Clements - What's Love Got to Do With It?

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What’s love got to do with it? 

I heard a song on the radio this past week and it got me to thinking.  There are some songs that we have heard so many times over the years that we quit listening to the words, or we find that we never really paid very close attention to them in the first place.

That was this week.  I was listening to the oldies station and Tina Turner came on the radio.  She was singing “What’s Love Got to do with it?”

I still can’t tell you the words to the whole song, but I have heard the chorus a thousand times:

Oh whats love got to do, got to do with it
What`s love but a second hand emotion
What`s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart
When a heart can be broken

She goes on to sing:

What`s love got to do, got to do with it
What`s love but a sweet old fashioned notion

We know that love is more than emotion and we know that love is not an outdated notion. But that doesn’t answer Tina’s question does it.

Just what does love have to do with it?

How important is love to the things that we do?

I think the obvious answer is, “Love has everything to do with it.”  Love is what it is all about.

From the beginning of time until Christ returns, and even after that, it is all about love. 

The entire Bible from start to finish is about God’s love for us. 

Tina was just looking in the wrong place.  The apostle Paul answered her question when he wrote his letter to the Romans.

Paul spends 11 Chapters explaining the love of God, the gift of His son to us and what it means to us and then he goes on to tell us what we should do because of His love.

Love is what it is all about.

Turn to Romans Chapter 12.


In Chapter 12 of Romans Paul explains what the believer’s reasonable service to God should be.  He then exhorts believers to use their individual God-given gifts to the benefit of the body of Christ.  And after listing various gifts, Paul begins, in verse 9 and following, to explain how those gifts are shown in Christian love and what that should look like. 

Romans 12:9-13 (NASB95)
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

As Christians we are bound to use our gifts within the context of love.  Paul knows that any good gift from God has the potential to be misused when it is given to man.  We have a tendency to take credit for the gifts that God has given us. Or we get puffed up and forget that God gave us our abilities.

 Paul knew this and reminds us that everything we do should be based in love.  Paul is teaching what loving relationships look like, both among Christians and of Christians to unbelievers.

In verse 9 Paul gives a general command about love and then follows it with examples of how that love will show itself. 

Verses 10 and 13 are directed toward other Christians

while verses 11 and 12 address our  love to God. 

The remaining verses in Chapter 12 speak to our relationships to others.

Let’s look at these a little closer:

In Verse 9

Paul states, “Let love be unhypocritical, abhor the evil, uniting with the good.”  Love that we show to others must be sincere.  It cannot be feigned. 

As Believers we are to be a reflection of the love that has been to shown to us.  We are encouraged to be sincere and unhypocritical in love, faith and wisdom, elsewhere in the New Testament.[1]

2 Corinthians 6:6 (NASB95)
6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love,

1 Peter 1:22 (NASB95)
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

1 Timothy 1:5 (NASB95)
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

James 3:17 (NASB95)
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

This type of love is not merely based on outward actions toward one another.  Believers cannot simply act like they love each other, you must strive for genuine, unselfish love that is vigilant in looking after, providing for and honoring others.  If love is not sincere and unhypocritical, it is not love.

Love is at the foundation of Christianity and if we are to reflect the love that we have received it must be genuine with no hint of pretense.  If you are faking love you will be found out pretty quickly.  Our patience is pretty thin without love.  Our willingness to do for others goes away when we are not serving with a heart filled with love.

Paul finishes verse 9 with two commands that relate to pure love.  Paul commands Christians to “abhor the evil, uniting with the good.”[2]  This appears to be a direct quote from Amos 5:15. 

Amos 5:15 (NASB95)
15 Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of hosts May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

The Psalmist says, “Hate evil, you who love the Lord…”[3]

  The Old Testament is full of references that advise the faithful to hate those things which are evil (Ps. 119:104, 119:128,119:163, Prov. 8:13, 13:5, 28:16).  This was not a new concept to Paul’s readers.  The word that Paul uses, ἀποστυγοῦντες, has the connotation of utterly hating or shrinking away from evil.[4]

This verse makes me think of how most people feel about snakes, especially me.  I don’t dislike snakes, I absolutely hate them.  The only good snake … they have no use or value in my book.  I don’t care that they eat rodents and other pests. I would gladly trade all the snakes for a few mouse traps.  I don’t just hate snakes, I don’t want to be anywhere near one.  That is the image that Paul paints for us here.  Don’t just hate it, get away from it as fast as you can.

Christians can’t simply ignore evil, it must stir up such emotion in the soul so as to alert us that everything about it is wrong.  Not only are we to abhor evil we must turn from it. 

There is something about evil that tempts us to prove that we can get close to evil without it having an effect on us.  However, as believers we must separate ourselves from it completely.

The Bible tells us to Run from it.  Joseph, remove the TV.

1 Corinthians 6:18 (NASB95)
18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.

This is the lesson that Joseph taught us.

1 Corinthians 10:14 (NASB95)
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
Run from anything that separates us from God or that wants to claim more importance in our lives than God.

1 Timothy 6:11 (NASB95)
11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
Flee from bad doctrine and false teachings.  I don’t care how entertaining a preacher is on TV, if he is teaching bad doctrine, turn him off.  If they are not preaching the gospel turn them off.  Paul told Timothy that If people are preaching that godliness is the way to wealth, run from them. That is still pretty good advice for us today.

It’s not enough, though to just run from evil. We also have to run to what is good. We should cling to what is good. Grab on to the good and don’t let go.

  Paul presents this imagery in Chapter 6 when he states that believers are united with Christ.  We are not only directed to unite ourselves to good acts, we are reminded that we are united with, Jesus Christ. 

After this simple command Paul continues through the rest of the chapter showing believers how Christian love should present itself.

I like Paul, he doesn’t just leave us hanging.  He doesn’t just say, “Go! Do it!” He knows that we need some concrete examples of how we should do it and what it should look like.

Verses 10 & 13

Romans 12:10 (NASB95)
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

Romans 12:13 (NASB95)
13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Verses 10 and 13 concern themselves with love towards other Christians.  Paul encourages us to display “brotherly love for one another tenderly loving.”[5] Paul is emphasizing the family relationship of the church.  He makes the point that as believers we are brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Every local congregation functions as an immediate family and carries all of the dynamics of family life.  We celebrate together, we mourn together.  We share in each other’s joy.  We take care of each other when someone is sick.  We help each other.  We defend each other.

  Paul stresses the importance of developing a family-type love for other Christians; unconditional love that is displayed between family members.[6]  This love does not excuse bad behavior, but chooses to continue to love in spite of it.

Family members argue and fight. They don’t always agree.  But they still love each other.

As my children were growing up I would tell them, “ I will always love you, but I may not always like what you do.”  That is the way it is with family.

Paul doesn’t stop with telling us to treat each other as family.  In addition to loving each other as family, we should seek to excel in brotherly love.  The church in Thessalonica knew how to practice brotherly love and Paul commended them for it and encouraged them to excel still more.[7]   Listen to what he says:

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 (NASB95)
9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,

You can never have enough brotherly love!

 (1 Peter 1:22). Peter further adds: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

According to John, the depths of our Christian love should be such that “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16b). In fact, he says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Later, John tells us why this is so important, “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:21).[8]

The second part of verse 10 seeks to clarify and explain the first part of the verse.  Paul continues the verse with, “as to honor, trying to outdo one another.”[9]  Paul highlights that true love sets aside self-centeredness and looks out for the other person.

        If I know that everyone around me is looking out for me I don’t have to worry about myself. (quarterback) I am free to focus on others and take care of them.  This is a big circle and it works both ways.  If I am worried about my needs, I focus on me and don’t have time for others. 

What would it be like if everyone in your neighborhood watched out for each other?  Most of us grew up in neighborhoods like this.  We have an entire generation who has no concept of this.  My neighbor…

  Love seeks to build the other person up rather than continually trying to best the other person.  Love shows deference to others and causes believers to think of others first.  Love gives others the benefit of the doubt.

Now, Our egos find us seeking praise from others, but if we are living in Christian love our affirmation comes from Christ. As a result we should be seeking to give praise, not receive it  The idea is that we should lead the way in showing honor to someone else.

Paul continues in verse 13 by stating, “Have a share in the needs of the saints, pursuing the love of strangers.”[10]  It was a common practice in the early church to give to those in need.  The church in Jerusalem sold their possessions and gave to those who had need.  The believers realized that everything that they possessed belonged to God and came to them as a blessing from God.  They claimed nothing as their own.  The Scriptures state that there was not a needy person among the believers.[11] 

We see Love here as an outward act that seeks to lift up another person.  As Christians we have been given the greatest gift available to man, the grace and forgiveness of God.  As a result we should have no problem giving.  We should grow in a spirit of giving that reflects the love of God that should be found in us. 

It is not enough, however, to simply give possessions or use our possessions for God.  Paul encourages believers to pursue the love of other believers.  Paul is asking the believers to practice hospitality.  When this letter was written that would mean to allow travelers to stay in your home.  This was a common practice of the time.  The inns were not safe places to stay and travelers would typically carry a letter vouching for their character, so as to be accepted as a guest.[12]

We live in a different time.  Most people don’t even want to take in relatives, much less anybody else.  But Paul is showing us something here. 

Opening your home takes giving to another level.  It is not just giving material gifts and walking away. It is more than writing a check.  

Opening your home entails a risk.

·       Somebody strange/different is in your house.

·       They are going to touch your stuff.

·       They may find out where you hide stuff.

·       They may see how you really live.  

We have to be willing to take risks for the sake of the gospel.  It may take us into parts of the community that make us uncomfortable.  We may have to risk our reputation at work or with our friends.  We have to get past worrying what other people will think.  Our affirmation comes from God, He is the one that we need to worry about.

This involves the giver in a more personal way and requires that the giver interact and build a relationship with the person who is being invited in.  This means that we are going to have do some hard work.  Relationships are hard work.  Marriage isn’t easy. It is hard work.  That’s why people give up on marriage. They don’t want to do the hard work, they are looking for the easy way out.  It’s hard work.  Building relationships with others is hard work.  We have people who hop from church to church because they are not willing to do the hard work of building lasting relationships.  Relationships grow and change and they require hard work, but they are worth it. 

There are lots of ways to do evangelism, but I believe that relational evangelism is the most effective way that there is.  It takes time to build relationships with friends and to let them see what Christian friendship looks like.  It takes patience and hard work, but it is worth it in the end. 

This hospitality that Paul talks about encourages relationships that would also be an example to others in the community around the believers.  The hospitable believer witnesses by his actions.

Paul shows us what Christian love for each other looks like and then he addresses what love for God should look like for believers.

Verses 11-12

Tucked in between verses 10 and 13 Paul addresses the believer’s love relationship with the Lord.  Paul uses short phrases to make his point in a succinct manner, each one addressing the believer’s attitude.

As to diligence-not slothful,

As to the spirit-being hot,

As to the Lord-serving,

As to hope-rejoicing,

As to tribulation-enduring,

As to prayer-constantly attending.[13]

We are to be diligent in our service to God.  This also means that we are to be diligent in our love towards God and others.  We should never be lazy in any matters concerning God, He cannot settle for the mediocre.  God wants our best, not our leftovers.  This is a constant struggle for believers.  We have to realize that everything that we do is for the glory of God.  Paul commanded slaves to work as if they were working for God.  We need to honor Him in everything that we do.  Brother Lawrence.

In matters of the spirit we are to “be on fire.”  Paul uses a similar phrase in Acts and it is usually translated as being fervent in the spirit.  This phrase shows the contrast from being slothful.  You can’t be both slothful and on fire at the same time.  It just doesn’t work. 

Paul continues; that when it comes to the Lord, believers are to be serving.

The word for serving here implies the type of service that is rendered by a slave.  This makes sense. As Christians we owe our allegiance and everything we have Jesus Christ.  Even though we are to serve as slaves we don’t trudge around in bondage. We are to serve with a spirit that is burning for the Lord and to perform our duties with excellence having no hint of laziness.  Only in God’s economy can a slave find freedom in serving.  That doesn’t work anywhere else.

Paul continues:

·       In matters of hope we are to be rejoicing.  Earlier in Chapter 5 Paul states that “we are boasting upon hope of the glory of God.”[14] 

·       We are should celebrate in the hope that we have because of the grace that they have received. 

·       It is this hope that we have that gives us the ability to endure tribulations.  Can you imagine going through the tragedies of life without the hope of Christ.  We can get through anything because we know that this is not all there is.  This is only temporary.

·       Paul continues in Chapter 5 by stating that not only should we rejoice in hope but that we should also rejoice in the tribulations that we undergo.  Again, only in God’s economy does it make sense to rejoice over tribulation. It doesn’t work anywhere else.

And then finally, we see that as we endure these tribulations and rejoice in the hope of Jesus Christ we are to be constantly about the business of prayer.  Earlier in Romans Paul writes:  “The Spirit comes alongside our weakness, for we do not know what we should pray as necessary, but the spirit himself intercedes with groaning inexpressible.”[15]  Even times of trial, especially in times of trial, we are to persevere in prayer knowing that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us when we have no words or thoughts of their own. 

We are to pray even when we don’t feel like it.  We are to pray even when we don’t have any words to pray.  We don’t have to have words. God knows our hearts.  The Holy Spirit will come along side us and pray for us, but we have to constantly attend to prayer. It is comforting for a brother or sister to come alongside us when we pray, to know that they are lifting us up, also.  They don’t even have to know all the details.  We have to put ourselves in the position and place of prayer.

These two short verses call us

·       to diligently serve the Lord with a burning that is unquenchable.  

·       We are to serve rejoicing in the hope that we have in Jesus, knowing that He is greater than any trial we may face

·       and that through prayer, our prayers and the Holy Spirit’s, we will be lifted up.

So, let’s go back to Tina’s question. What’s love got to do with it?  Everything.

God loved us so much that He was willing to give His son to save us.

He wants us to be in a loving relationship with Him and with others. Hard Work!

We are to reflect His love to people around us.

He commands us to love as He loves and to forgive as He forgives.  We can’t do this on our own. It only happens through God’s love.

God calls us to a whole hearted devotion to Him, to be on fire for Him, serving Him and rejoicing in whatever comes our way.

Where are you today?

·       Are you truly loving the people around you, or are you just putting on a good show. 

·       Are you asking God to help you forgive or are you hanging on to unforgiveness? 

·       Are you clinging to the good? Or are you just trying to hang on?

Take a moment this morning to see where you are at.

Ask God to help you with where you need to be.

There is more.


[1] 2 Cor. 6:6, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5, James 3:17.

[2] Romans 12.9b.

[3] Psalm97.10.

[4]Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament library (71). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

[5] Romans 12:10a.

[6]Cottrell, J. (1996-c1998). Romans : Volume 2. College Press NIV commentary (Ro 12:11). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co.

[7] 1 Thess. 4:9-10.

[8]Emmaus Bible College, Emmaus Journal Volume 2 (Emmaus Bible College, 1993; 2002), 2:59.

[9] Romans 12:10b.

[10] Romans 12:13.

[11] Acts 2:44-45, 4:32, 4:34-37.

[12]Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 12:7-11.

[13] Romans 12.11-12.

[14] Romans 5:2c.

[15] Romans 8:26.

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