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Bible Study: Loving God and neighbors

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the Bible Studies For Life curriculum.

Bible Passage: Romans 12:9-21

Discussion Question: When have you learned something by watching someone else?

Food for Thought by Katie McCoy:

Julia Child will always be the consummate cooking personality. She was a pioneer TV chef who continues to inspire generations of everyday Americans to embrace the joy of cooking. It wasn’t just her skill with intricate recipes; it was the way she responded to her own mistakes that made her both educational and entertaining.

Perhaps what has made her popularity so enduring is how she made you feel like you could jump in and try the same thing. She taught you how to create complex, professional-looking dishes step by step. The best teachers are the ones who don’t just tell you what to do; they show you how to do it.

In the book of Romans, Paul did just that. For 11 chapters, he gave us the most complete theology of salvation in Scripture. Then in Romans 12, he showed us how to live out that salvation. The awe-inspiring mercy of God moves us to present ourselves as living sacrifices, a spiritual act of worship. In verses 9-21, we see that life of worship on display as we are encouraged to love and honor others. Let’s learn the recipe from Paul.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul launched into a practical description of love, right after instructing the Corinthian Christians about spiritual gifts in chapter 12. He did the same thing in Romans 12. After instructing them regarding spiritual gifts (vv. 3-8), Paul outlined how they were to love one another.

Considering that he does this in two different letters, we get an idea of how important this was to the apostle. It’s as though he wanted us to remember the “big picture” purpose of our spiritual gifts, which is to use them to fulfill the greatest commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).

Beginning with verse 9 it might sound like Paul was giving us a random list of commands, but each one tells us how to love our neighbors as ourselves. And each one is important. When Paul said “let love be without hypocrisy,” he was calling for us to have pure hearts. We are not to do what seems loving for the sake of appearances or with an ulterior motive like gaining something advantageous or avoiding something unpleasant.

This is different from acting with love even when we don’t feel loving. This passage refers to our motives. Are we doing what is right for the right reasons or for our own advantage, what Philippians 2:3 calls “selfish ambition”? With a pure heart, we can love what God loves and shun what is wrong. With pure hearts we can love others, being devoted to their good.

In verse 13, Paul makes it clear that those relationships also mean we consider all we own as opportunities to serve one another, showing “hospitality.” Paul also commanded the Romans to “share with the saints in their needs,” even when inconvenient.

We honor others by serving them in love. This “loving your neighbor as yourself” business is not for the faint of heart! It requires a spirit laser-focused on the hope of God despite times of discouragement. It requires patience with others when they mistreat us, and a refusal to give up on asking God to intervene in our circumstances.

Loving one another requires us to show honor by giving of ourselves even at personal cost. We may not have a name as well-known as Paul the apostle, but we can all know and display the joy of loving and honoring. Let’s grow in the skill of loving others well by giving them honor.

Katie McCoy is director of women’s ministry for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Bible Studies for Life

Bible Studies for Life connects the Bible to life for adults, students and kids. Bible Studies for Life helps individuals and groups know God’s Word through trustworthy content, creates biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies, and helps people engage the culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues. More information can be found on the internet at biblestudiesforlife.com.

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