Romans 12:9-13. Let love be genuine…Contribute to the needs of the saints
We have been given union with Christ so that we can manifest the life and love of Christ on earth today. This is the genuine love that Paul is talking about here in Romans 12. How do we know when love is fake or not genuine? When it fails to share. When it fails to meet needs. When it fails to carry a burden.
This is the idea behind contribute to the needs of the saints.
Contribute: Koinonia. A Greek word that is often translated as fellowship. It means to share in common. Partnership. To claim a part as my own.
“To live is Christ” is never mere sentimentality. It is union with the Body of Christ. It is shared sorrow. It is meeting practical needs. Literally sharing wealth and resources. Giving of our time and energy. It is having the attitude that “your problem is my problem.”
Jesus never, ever meant for any Christian to walk through this life alone, especially in our sorrows and sufferings. No Christian should ever bear a burden by himself. If we are “members one of another” (12:5), if we are parts of the same body, Christ’s body, then that means that we share everything, including our needs.
This goes way beyond just contributing to an anonymous benevolence fund. The koinonia of needs means knowing the pains and burdens of each other. This happens in deep community and in spiritual friendship.
How far will you go to ease pain?
So with all of this in mind, let me ask you three questions:
1. Are you involved in Christian community deeply enough in your local church so as to know the literal needs of those in your church?
Do you know the needs of the single moms? The teenagers? The aging? The unemployed? The ministers? The children? Are you in a small group where needs are expressed and met? I’m not saying to get up into everyone’s business. But if you seek genuine community and build trust, soon enough the needs will reveal themselves without you having to stalk anyone. I promise.
2. Do you see yourself as being uniquely equipped by God to meet needs in your church?
Think back to the beginning of Romans 12. You have a gift. You are called to express that gift by faith (12:6). Are you? Is your gift mercy? Is it leading? Is it serving? Teaching? Exhorting? Giving? When is the last time you used your specific gift to meet a specific need of someone in the family of God? Not sure what your gift is? Like we said in an earlier blog, practice them all. Just start loving. Be kind. Reach out. Take chances. Get uncomfortable. Be present. Pay attention. Listen to stories. Buy someone coffee and listen, listen, listen. The needs will reveal themselves – then pray and act.
3. Are you sharing your needs with others so that they can experience the grace and joy of obeying this command?
As always superiority and inferiority are the opponents of true love and the gospel. If I feel superior to others, then I don’t need their help. If I feel inferior to others, then I assume no one will want to help me. Neither of these mindsets is genuine love. Real love will let others know when we need help, but not primarily because we need help. We reveal our needs so that others can experience the joy of the koinonia of needs and the grace of God as he meets their needs.
Paul gives us an example of this in his own life in Philippians 4:
Philippians 4: 14-20. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership (koinonia) with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Do you see it? Paul didn’t tell them his need because he sought the gift (v17). He shared his need with them so that they could love him. So that they could experience God’s grace.
“To live is Christ” has united us to a community in ways much deeper than we often realize. Being in Christ has met the greatest need in all of our lives – forgiveness, reconciliation, and new life. And Christ in you is meant to meet every other need in our lives – physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. This is the life we are saved into, the life of genuine love. The life of the koinonia of needs. The life of Christ.