Romans 12:9-11. Let love be genuine…Do not be slothful in zeal
Our life in Christ is a journey. Jesus is leading us to the mountain top of genuine love. Learning to love with Christ’s agape love is our destination, our goal, our summit. But it is fraught with dangers. And so Paul has given us a strong admonition – do not be slothful in zeal.
Excitedness. Eagerness. Fervor. Doing something with passion and speed.
And I’m supposed to love this way?
What does this mean?
Make the love of Jesus the reason you do everything. Don’t let your passion burn out. Keep moving forward in love. Climb that mountain. Keep serving others. Keep engaging. Don’t give up on that person. Send that card. Return that email. Reach out to that neighbor again. Show up for your turn in the church nursery. Re-institute date night. Go to your kid’s recital. Say yes to that invitation. Dig deeper into hearts and souls. Mentor. Disciple. Listen. Cry. Feel. Admit. Apologize. Love fiercely.
Taken: a story of the zealous pursuit of a father’s love.
But beware of the dangers on the journey, the things that will steal your zeal:
Forgetting your need for grace – it’s easy to read a command like this and run off without even considering that you have absolutely no power apart from Christ’s love to keep this commandment. Your response must flow from the “mercies of God” (12:1). Trusting that he loves you with an everlasting love. That you are complete in him. That all will be accomplished by God’s all-consuming love. Now you can begin to zealously love hard.
Forgetting the true nature of grace – grace never produces less love. If you’re mindset is “well my lazy loving will be covered by God’s grace anyway, so let me just coast,” then you, my friend, do not understand the nature of grace. Grace can make us slothful when we only see grace as forgiveness and fail to see it as new life. Christ’s life in us. His love in us. Has God’s grace caused you to love him more or love him less? Obviously the answer should be “more.” If that’s the case, then you will love what he loves. And that’s people. All people.
Forgetting the power of love – it’s easy to blow off this command, ignore it, or justify our pathetic level of love as “zealous enough.” It’s not. But Christ never asks for anything from us that he does not empower. The Christ IN YOU has empowered you with resurrection power to love others with zeal, not laziness. God’s grace is power. To know we are loved, forgiven, received, adopted, and eternally secure IS the power to love others as Christ loves others.
Forgetting the context for zealous love – the church. This is where we go to be loved and to love. This is where Christ’s powerful love is made complete in us. It finds it’s end here. The church community is where you hear of needs and sorrows. It’s where you learn how to love and practice loving together. It’s where you pool your physical, emotional, and spiritual resources so as to not be burned out and lose your zeal.
Fearing a broken heart – Maybe you’ve been hurt trying to love. Maybe you’ve been rejected and given up on learning to love like Christ. Maybe you’ve given up on a relationship, or written a person or group of people off. Maybe even the church.
Don’t quit. Rest in Christ. Remember the love of Christ for you. A love that never quits. A love that loves you even when you don’t return that love. Even when you rejected Christ, he died for you. He loved first.
“To live is Christ” is to love as Christ loves. With zeal. Never lazy. Pursuing it. Loving hard. But first, letting yourself be loved. Realizing Christ’s zeal for you. God’s jealousy for you. His love is never slothful. It washes over us like a flood, empowering our zeal for the hearts and minds of others.
Our love for one another is the greatest apologetic for the world, and the greatest healing for our own souls. Do you believe this?