September 9, 2015

Love Must Be Free

Word studies have greatly bolstered my gratitude for the richness of God’s Word. I have been moved to construct paraphrases of biblical passages to convey the robust and intricate implications that they have brought home to me. I share this one with the prayer that you will be encouraged to fall in love with God’s Word as I did.

Romans 12:9-21

Love must be free from hidden agendas. You should not be blindly seduced by persuasion to deviate from the standard of love; instead you should be aware of, and repulsed by, the inevitable agonies and miseries that always go with evil. Make yourself intimately bonded to what is truly good, whether others understand it or not.

Be tenderly present and affectionate toward one another with the cherishing love of a loyal family member. Trust God’s grace by taking the lead to willingly give higher value to other people rather than drowning in your own needs as though God did not die for you as well.

Never be reluctant about the best you know you can give, but instead feed the flame of your spiritual ardor so that it is always at a boiling point, ever-ready to serve God by ministering to someone else’s heart. Choose to stay conscious of God’s grace whenever you must wait on Him.

Do not let difficulty separate you from constantly asking God to exchange your wishes for His desires and for more persuasion to trust Him. Participate in both the crises and mundane chores of your fellow believers and be unwaveringly fervent about sharing your hearts and homes with people who are strange to you.

Even when you are bullied, provoked, and hunted, deliberately speak only what is good and kind about your persecutors. Be gracious and do not pray for anything negative to happen to them; pray for Jesus to happen to them.

Affirm the gladness of people who have something to celebrate; do not rain on their joy. Validate and respect the grief of people who have suffered heartbreak and loss; do not criticize their tears. Hold them in your arms. Cry with them. Be still with them. Do not abandon them. Live with such intentionally sincere love that no one feels like a dissonant note in the community, but knows they are valued and would be missed if they were gone. Do not exalt yourself. Do not spend time praising your own intelligence.

Never fight fire with fire, ever. Instead, take thought beforehand to respond to injustice and cruelty with choices that look beautiful and noble to everyone.

Live so that witnesses are forced to conclude you are blameless and internally empty of self-serving motives. Whenever you have the option, choose to depend on God’s strength and wisdom—rather than your own—to figure out ways of living without causing conflict. Never try to get even when you are wronged, but instead give God opportunity to put His redeeming, sinless anger into action on your behalf. Remember what God has said: “Retribution is my responsibility, and I will make it happen perfectly.” Your call is to nurture, not avenge.

Never allow your heart to be subdued by what is wrong, but win the fight and protect your heart with God’s goodness, whether others understand it or not.

Chloe Murnighan is a pastor’s wife. She studied religion at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.