Love is important, it is central to the Christian life. We often look to 1 Corinthians 13 for a Christian understanding of love as we should. But, Romans 12 is important too. When you read it you realize that love is very, very busy. Ultimately, it requires getting over ourselves and being with somebody regardless of how it immediately benefits us. Love looks to the long term good of others. This is why a husband can kick a man out of his house for being rude to his wife and why a mother can discipline her child and yet both are loving. They aim for the highest good.
It is also why people can spend money on those who did not earn it, travel across oceans to share the gospel, spend time with folks nothing like them, work jobs they hate to support those under their care, and on and on and on. Love is not sentimentality. Love can use sentimental feelings and it can mock them because it does not need them. Love forgives the worst of the worst, it protects the weakest of the weak, and it seeks to honor the lowly and the proud alike. Love goes to dingy places and cleans them up. The loving man ignores his own sins for a moment and loves somebody else despite their sins. The loving woman overcomes her vision of success and loves somebody else. Love is busy. God is love.
Here is my translation of Romans 12:3, 9-15
For I am telling you all by the grace given to me: do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought to think, but rather think of yourselves with sound judgement, each one as God has given a measure of faith…
Let love be without hypocrisy, abhorring the evil, clinging to the good;
with friendliness, befriending one another, being the first to honor one another,
let it be eager not lazy (the love), being zealous of spirit, serving the Lord,
rejoicing in hope, enduring in trials, continuing in prayer,
sharing in the needs of the saints, actively pursuing hospitality,
blessing those who pursue/persecute you (you should bless and not curse).
Rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who weep.
Paul seems to mean, that despite how great we think we are love doesn’t care. Love should be done in certain ways or it is not love. But if we’re caught up on ourselves, we cannot do it. If we cannot rejoice at another’s joy or we’re too strong or awkward to help another in grief then we need to get over ourselves.
Whatever your hang ups (whether selfish, arrogant, insecure, or just neutral personality traits) realize that God gave you grace. Get over yourself and love somebody.
Part 2 (This is my attempt at remembering a Doug Wilson comment on Romans 12 and a classical educators conference my place of employment held, if you do not like him, please do not say so in the comments, the point is that he was right about this issue, the end…except for the rest of the article.)*
I tried to commit a brief paragraph of what he said to memory because it was so down to earth and so true, “Look, a lot of you have insecurities, preferences, and desires to get ahead. You disagree about things and have a tendency to want to be cool or to have the upper hand, but seriously, get over yourselves and just love somebody. I mean it, get over yourself and love somebody else. That’s what Christian community is about.”
I can’t stop thinking about how he put that.
*A lot of people really do not like Doug Wilson. I myself disagree with the guy about no small number of issues. He has been involved in numerous controversies. In reformed circles he is criticized for being a part of a controversial movement and for quoting N.T. Wright, in moderate circles he is criticized for being a complementarian, he is criticized for being a racist by those who disagree with his other stances (a claim which is not true, he may have an eccentric interpretation of the civil war…but he’s no racist), in atheist circles he is in trouble for debating Christopher Hitchens, in home school circles he is criticized for advocating Christian private schooling, and in other circles he is criticized for using the classical education model.
Nevertheless, I’ve met the man in person twice and he is cordial and kind. I spoke with him for a few minutes about multiple topics: apologetics, productivity, work hours, and Greek philosophy. He surely has no memory of it. I remember it because he was a guest speaker at the private school where I work.