Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:11-13, 15 NIV
Verse 15 describes yesterday. I began the morning worshipping the Lord with my faith family, singing about the joy of salvation and Advent. I celebrated one set of friends’ wedding anniversary and another set of friends’ engagement anniversary. It was a time of rejoicing.
Then this afternoon, my husband and I went to the memorial for Connor, the grandson of my hometown pastor. I ended the night clutching him and his wife as we wept together over the loss of their 3-year-old precious boy and the lack of understanding in this tragedy.
As Job’s friends in their first week of visitation, I said nothing to address the moment, only loved them and stood with them in their pain. What could I have said in the face of that?
I noticed for the first time the significance of how these verses are ordered. Spiritual zeal and fervor come before the command to serve others. We cannot pour out what we have not filled ourselves up with. We cannot offer hope to the despondent if we do not have faith and eternal perspective. We cannot be joyful if we are not aware of Christ’s victory and the presence of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be patient in affliction–or be patient with the behaviors of afflicted people–if we are not confident that God’s plan is to prosper us. We cannot be faithful in prayer if we don’t believe that our prayers are heard… and answered.
I believe this command to share is more than just donating blankets to a local homeless shelter at Christmas, dropping coins in Salvation Army buckets, or paying for the meal behind you in the fast food line. This is a call to share our hearts with people in need of comfort. To rejoice with their triumphs and mourn with their sufferings. This is a call to be vulnerable and let yourself feel what others feel so you can meet them where they really are.
That’s where true change happens: in real life.
Living in harmony is more than a lack of strife; it’s a coming together of different lives and a blending together into beauty. That isn’t the result of a completed checklist. That is purposeful love in action.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
This holiday season, don’t just decorate and shop, don’t just give a trinket to the faceless poor; be devoted to someone and love them sincerely. This is what God did for us in giving Christ–His Son, His heart. This is the Gospel.