What does love look like? Television commercials and magazines show starry-eyed love between romantic partners; sweet, cuddly love between parents and children; and “I’ve got your back” love between friends. If only love were as simple and uncomplicated as those images. In reality, whether it’s connecting individuals or groups, love can be hard work.
In the preceding verses, Paul reminds his listeners that we are one in Christ. Today’s verses detail how we live out our connectedness. It starts when we “love from the center of who [we] are” (the message). Paul’s words to the faithful in Rome are specific. He offers no “just be nice” platitude but rather a series of exhortations that apply today as much as they did thousands of years ago. Ultimately, “we love because [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Although some of Paul’s ideas echo Jesus’ teachings, he very specifically lists behaviors of how to show genuine love.
Read these verses slowly and pause after each suggestion. Which of these feel easy? Which ones do you still need to work on? Think of specific persons or situations that fit. You might also name individuals you know or know of who exemplify genuine love or perseverance in prayer. It may be someone famous like Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Day, or Malala Yousafzai. It may be an honored elder in your congregation or a young adult whose work with the church youth inspires you to deeper love.
As you read, listen for that place deep within where God nudges you. Does one of Paul’s admonitions jump out at you? Perhaps you have had a falling out with a friend or your faith community is experiencing division. One of these verses might be a fitting breath prayer of focus as you work through conflict by “loving from the center of who you are.”
God of Love, may my love be genuine so that I serve you in all things. Amen.
Moses has fled Egypt and is living in the desert, where God calls him to return and free the Israelites. Moses resists, but God does not relent. In many of the Psalms, the psalmist reviews God’s record of faithfulness. Psalm 105 is no different and highlights the calling of Moses. In Romans, Paul addresses practical ethical concerns. How should we treat those who treat us poorly? We should never repay evil for evil, but instead should bless those who harm us. This goes against our natural instincts, yet the gospel is countercultural and calls us to a higher standard. In Matthew, Peter has just had a tremendous moment in declaring his faith in Christ. Now he stumbles in failing to understand that Jesus’ path to glory will pass through suffering.
Read Exodus 3:1-15. What sacred encounter might have been your burning bush? How did you know God’s presence was with you in the encounter?
Read Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b. How does obedience to God shape your life? Recall an instance where your obedience to God’s call or teachings made a difference.
Read Romans 12:9-21. When has working toward a common goal helped you better love your family, friends, or community?
Read Matthew 16:21-28. When have you had to trust God and accept that you “have no idea how God works”? How did your trust help you through the situation?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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