The Authenticating Mark

In some translations of the Bible we come across headings that have been inserted to help us know what the upcoming section is about. They’re “extra-biblical” and not at all necessary, but I don’t mind them in the least. The encapsulation sort of helps guide the reading.

We’ve been lingering recently over the opening verses of Romans 12. If we drop down a bit, the NIV gives us one of those brief overview headings which says this: Love in Action.  So, let’s hear what Paul has to say about love in action: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 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.~Romans 12:9-13  We can break those down into one word, bite-size instructions. Love must be: sincere, good, devoted, honoring, fervent, joyful, hopeful, patient, faithful, prayerful and hospitable. This section is not unlike Paul’s famous words in I Corinthians 13, often referred to as the Love Chapter.

It seems fairly evident that what Paul has been referring to, for the most part, is how Christians are to behave toward other Christians. And the above list is enough to keep most of us hopping for quite some time. But it is the very next verse that ties it all together and brings us right back to the subject that has captured our attention for the past few weeks:  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. ~Romans 12:14

We can’t escape this command that Jesus taught. We find it throughout the balance of the New Testament. It is not an outlier  teaching of our faith. It is central  to our faith. It is not enough to merely love fellow Christians – although many times that in itself can be a precipitous challenge! And along those lines you might recall that bit when Jesus said that it was no grand spiritual triumph to love those who love us back. He mentioned that even those scurrilous Romans could manage reciprocal love. No, for our love portfolio to be complete, we’re given this assignment as well – we are to bless those who persecute us. It was the authenticating mark of Jesus and for the church that would follow.