Read: Romans 15:1-7
When I was in high school, my family went through a really hard year. A lot of hurtful things were done and said between all of us, and our house became a very turbulent place to be. Years of healing have passed since those days, but there’s still moments I do not feel like loving my family. This situation is especially fresh on my mind now after moving home for a few months because of COVID-19. I have to fight the impulse to love as far as my feelings will allow. Love is not gauged by how we feel, but the actions we choose.
In Romans 15, we learn about this higher kind of love as Paul talks about how we can follow the example of Christ. He starts off by saying we are to please our neighbors and to build them up instead of pleasing ourselves (v. 2). We are meant to divert the energy we would normally use for ourselves onto others. His reasoning follows that, by doing this, we are like Christ who “did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me”” (v. 3). Does this seem backward to you? It’s meant to—it’s naturally something we cannot do on our own strength but requires strength from beyond ourselves.
This kind of strength is the endurance Paul so frequently prays over others in his letters. In verse 5 he gives a short prayer/benediction, asking that the “God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus”. Loving others beyond our means seems impossible, but it’s the only way to come into real harmony with people in life. But notice, this harmony isn’t just getting along in a friendly kind of equilibrium, it’s in accord with Christ Jesus. When our eyes, wills, works, everything are directed at Christ, following Him whole-heartedly, love beyond our abilities follows as a result. It’s beyond our human capacity to love like Christ does, but when we are abiding in Him, His love overflows out of us.
Paul addresses that God is ultimately the source of all endurance and encouragement, and can grant harmony and unity to any situation. The goal being that with one voice (v. 6), and by embracing humility, we can come together for the united goal of bringing glory to God’s name. Glorifying God may seem at first glance like a disjointed point to make here, but it’s been the point all along. God’s glory is the profound root of all real love. It’s widely accepted in culture that humans were made to love, but what’s often omitted is that true love is a manifestation of the author of love. Any love that is true brings glory to God, and perpetuates greater acts of love (1 Jhn. 4:7).
It’s this kind of glorifying, harmonious love that Jesus came to teach as He drew from the Father and gave without concern for His own needs. We are meant to love the same way, often giving beyond what we feel is reasonable, or comfortable. Our feelings can be very misleading indicators for how much we can endure in loving. Trust God, knowing that even in situations where love makes no sense, He will provide through you what is lacking.
When a moment comes up at work or home where you don’t feel like loving, take a step back and breathe. Remember, we are not here on earth to please ourselves, but to love our neighbor and please them like Christ. Ask yourself, what can I do to serve this person. Often acts of love speak louder than words to those who doubt our sincerity. Welcome Christ into these turbulent moments, trusting Him to love through you as you act on His will for the glory of God.