Why do our most important relationships often fall apart? Why is it that often those most important to us and closest to us suffer relationally? Answer: servanthood and forgiveness. After Paul spends 11 chapters explaining all of God’s mercies towards us who believe and trust in Christ he then in chapter 12 turns towards what they means practically in everyday life. In Romans 12:9-21 he talks of how to love by starting out that if you say you love someone then your life will be one of service towards those you love.
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[a] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[b] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[c] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21, English Standard Version)
You will be a giver, not a taker – just like Jesus. Because in the previous few verses Paul just described a Christian who serves by using their gifts. We should hate evil, the wrong things and keep that which is good. We should show honor to one another so much as if we are in competition to out-honor others. And Paul says we should not be lazy in this! We should serve Christ with eagerness and keeness. This love should lead us to rejoice in the certainty of a loving God, to be patient even when the going gets tough (not to quit) and to pray knowing that God who is good hears us. We should be givers, not takers always.
Now for the tough part – we should favour our enemies instead of being angry with them. We should forgive them. We should join in with our community and interact with others and be ready to relate to all kinds of people – not just the attractive ones! We should not take revenge on our enemies but leave that to God who sees all things and is just. He’s much more powerful than we are!
This is how to love others on a personal level says God. And so we see again how radical this is compared to the advise the world offers: “looking out for number 1”!