Last night’s Bible study looked at Romans 12:9-13. This section reads like a bullet point list of imperatives: short, pithy commands that are easy enough to understand but take a lifetime to learn how to put into practice! Garry likened this section to a Terry’s orange, forming a solid whole to look at, but it can be broken into individual segments, all of which have much to teach us.

Paul starts with ‘Love must be sincere’ – the word coming from two Latin words ‘sine’ (without) and ‘cera’ (wax). Apparently during the times of the Roman empire, craftsmen would work with marble and often if the marble got broken, repairs were made using wax. In order to guarantee the quality and authenticity of their work, craftsmen would sign the sculpture ‘sine cera’, indicating no wax had been used and this was the genuine article! Similarly, builders used to mix cement with wax, only to find in the heat of the country the wax would melt, leaving the foundations crumbling, so reputable builders would also sign their work ‘sine cera’ as a guarantee. Our love must be genuine, sincere, pure, unadulterated.

We are to ‘hate what is evil and cling to what is good’. The word ‘hate’ here is ‘abhor’, a forceful word indicating that we need to be repelled, repulsed and revulsed by evil in every form (however attractive it may appear!) God hates evil and we are called to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1). On the other hand, we must cling to or cleave to what is good. ‘Cleave’ is an interesting word, since it can have opposite meanings. Our most common understanding of it is when thinking of a butcher’s knife, cutting (a cleaver is a broad bladed knife like a hatchet which separates… hence our word ‘cleavage’!) But the word can also mean ‘to glue together, cement, fasten together, to join or fasten firmly together’ (rather like a ship’s plates on the hull are stuck together by rivets so that the plates contract and are firmly joined together.) This meaning of the word is the one in the old marriage service, when a husband is said to ‘cleave to’ his wife. We have to be firmly fixed to all that is good – again, just as God is.

We also need to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, honouring or respecting each other above ourselves, following the example of Jesus who served others no matter how tired, grief-stricken or drained He was. Paul gives us practical ways of serving each other, including helping those in need or being hospitable. We are also commanded in this section ‘never be lacking in zeal, but always keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.’ In order to keep enduring, we have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, being aware of all He has done for us and therefore motivated to serve out of grateful hearts. We have be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.

Time to put our worship into action in practical and life-changing ways!