Aim For Love (Romans 12:9-21)

By | January 12, 2014

Aim Low to Reach Higher #2 in Series


     You and I are called to be the View Masters through whom the light and love of Christ shines. That’s why it is so important for us to Aim For Love as we Aim Low in life in order to reach higher for God and the Kingdom of God.

     Love is the most precious gift anyone can receive. Unconditional love is even more powerful. And yet we always seem to settle for the imitation or wannabe of love. We go for the glitz and the glitter and the baubles that fade and tarnish and go out of style. When what God has for us is so incredibly filling, fulfilling and life giving.


     Love, in all of its forms, is powerful according to Paul. But the unconditional love of Christ is the most powerful spiritual commodity there is. It was one of his central themes. Paul uses the word love 98 different times in his letters to the churches. He begins with love in Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)

[9] Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;

[10] love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

[11] Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

[12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

[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; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

[17] Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

[18] If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

[20] No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”

[21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

     I want to focus on Verse 9 today. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”

     Here he says “Let love be genuine.” In Colossians 3:14 he writes: Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

     But we don’t always clothe ourselves in the kind of love both Paul and Jesus talked about. Our love isn’t genuine. Instead we clothe ourselves in the appearance of love.

     Unfortunately this outward appearance of love just leaves us empty and wanting more. Maybe we go for the appearance of love because it seems easier and cleaner. And maybe we go for the outward appearance of love because we know that genuine love is messy.

     Kirk Martin is a Behavioral Consultant and Founder of Celebrate Calm which helps children with learning or emotional difficulties such as Asperger’s, Autism, Anxiety, OCD, ADD, and ADHD, become successful. He wrote on his blog, Love is Messy, Ugly and Painful.

     “Love is not saying just the right thing. Love is not even doing the right thing. Love is not your children behaving well. Love is not having a wonderful day at the park. All of those things are lovely and nice, but they are not love. Love is not the romantic comedy where two star-crossed lovers find each other. … Love is messy, love is dirty and sometimes ugly.

     To my friends whose faith is important, I caution you. Love is not a well-behaved child. Love is not the sterile portrait of a perfect family who hides its imperfection to please others. That’s an illusion. Love is messy. Love is when a woman is dragged from bed while committing adultery, half-naked, drenched in shame…and a man writes in the dirt to preserve her dignity and disperses her accusers with one sentence. [Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.]

     Love is when a prodigal son limps home, dirty outside and in, and is met not by a lecturing father looking to score points…but by a tear-filled father who runs and hugs him. Love is a servant on his knees washing his followers’ feet. Love is a prostitute given another chance. Love is what compels an innocent man to be whipped, beaten, spat upon and nailed to a tree. This is where love lives. (1)

     Wesley believed that love was the central aspect of our faith. For Wesley our Love for God is expressed in worship, prayer and praise. And our Love for Neighbor is expressed in evangelical witness and involvement in social justice issues like feeding the poor and standing up for the rights of others.

     So, how do we become the View Masters through whom the world can see the light and love of Christ? How do we “Let love be genuine” and “clothe ourselves in love?” One way we can Let Love Be Genuine is through Wesley’s Three Simple Rules. Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.

     I. DO NO HARM:

     A. “Do No Harm” first. That seems simple enough doesn’t it? It seems we do it all the time and even in some of the most difficult times. In Elmer Bendiner’s book, The Fall of Fortresses, he describes one bombing run over the German city of Kassel: His B-17 (The Tondelayo) was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That wasn’t unusual, but on this occasion their gas tanks were hit. Later, as he reflected on the miracle of a twenty-millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without exploding, the pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told him it wasn’t quite that simple.

     On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask the crew chief for the shell as a souvenir of their unbelievable luck. What the crew chief told Bohn was incredible. It wasn’t just one shell that they found in the gas tanks but eleven. Eleven! One would have been enough to blast them out of the sky. Even after thirty-five years, the event was so awesome that it leaves the author shaken, especially after he heard the rest of the story.

     The shells had been sent to the armory to be defused. The armory told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They couldn’t say why at the time, but Bohn eventually discovered the answer. Apparently when the armory workers opened each of those shells they didn’t find any explosive charges. The shells were clean as a whistle and just as harmless.

     All of them were empty except one. One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured the base until they found someone who could decipher the note which read: “This is all we can do for you now.”

     That’s the heart of Wesley’s rule and idea of “Do no harm.”

     B. The problem is that we understand exactly what it means to “Do no harm.” And for the most part, I think most of us try to live like that. It’s sort of a reverse or negative version of the Golden Rule. We try to live by this rule. But what happens when someone else doesn’t live by that rule and harms us either purposely or by accident. What should we do?

     You will probably remember this Nationwide Insurance commercial from about 5 years ago. It still makes be laugh. In the commercial, a young man scrapes the side of an older couple’s car. He jumps out and starts apologizing profusely, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.” The sweet looking older lady shoves the door of her car into the young man saying, “Forgive you? I’ve got your forgiveness right here.” She smacks him with her purse three or four times shouting, “How’s that for forgiveness.”

     As an appalled young women watches, this woman’s husband hollers, “Hit him in the head Rose.” She does and then just keeps whaling away at him with that purse while the voice of the announcer talks about “Nationwide’s accident forgiveness.”

     As funny as that commercial is it still begs the question “What should we do?” Which I think leads us right to the second rule.


     A. Do Good. Wesley said we are called to “Do Good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all.” And later in Romans 12 Paul writes: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

     I know there are times in our lives when the last thing we want to be is loving; when the last thing we want to do is love with mutual affection or repay evil with good. That’s not what we want. We want to get all Terminator on somebody, we want to Rambo all over them. But that is not the View Master way. Those kind of actions block the light and shut off the love. We’re call to be better than that, we’re call to be more than that. And the truth is, It’s Hard. But being the Abnormal People.

      The best way to overcome evil with good is through forgiveness. WATCH.

     That’s what Wesley meant when he said: Do Good. It applies not only to our neighbors but to our families members as well. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”


     A. And that brings us to Wesley’s last simple rule: Stay In Love With God. For Wesley this was very simple. We stay in love with God through acts of holiness that express both our love for God and our love for our neighbors. For Wesley, faith and works are two sides of the same coin.

     Love For God is expressed in worship, prayer and praise. And Love For Neighbor is expressed in works of mercy, and our compassionate treatment of others. We translate that into our daily lives by fulfilling our vows of membership to support the church and the work of the church through our Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service and Witness.

     B. There was a college student who spent a year living with a group of Navajos as part of his doctoral studies. As he did research on and with the Native Americans, he lived with members of this one Navajo family. He slept in their home, ate their food and worked side by side with them every day. As much as was possible, he tried to live as one of them.

     The old grandmother of the family spoke no English and the student spoke no Navajo and yet a close relationship developed between the two. They spent a great deal of time together. Despite the language problems, they shared a common understanding of love and friendship. And of course, over the months, they each learned a few phrases from each other.

     When it came time for the young man to return to college, the tribe held a going away celebration for him. The next day, as he prepared to get in his pickup and leave, the grandmother came to tell him good-bye. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I like me best when I’m with you.” (2)

     We can say the same thing about our relationship with Jesus, “I like me best when I’m with Jesus.” Jesus said He “would not leave us orphaned.” And when we are with Him, Heart and Soul, we ARE the best we can be. When we are with Jesus, when we belong to Him and worship Him and serve Him, He guides our lives and allows us to be the best we can be.


     A fan once asked the great American Composer, conductor and pianist Leonard Bernstein, which is the hardest instrument to play. Without hesitation he replied: “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.” (30)

     You and I are called to play second fiddle to Christ by Aiming Low and Aiming For Love; Love that is alive in our hearts and reflected in our lives. When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior and accept the forgiveness He offers, we give ourselves to Him. We are no longer our own but His. Jesus comes first, not us. We’re called to play second fiddle to Christ because when we do, when we push aside our feelings and seek only to let Christ shine through us the View Masters, a wave of harmony emanates. And when the world sees and hears that harmony they are drawn closer to God through Christ.

     Our challenge is to live what we believe by Aiming For Love in all we do. We do that through expressing Love which is Genuine; love that empowers us to Do No Harm, Do God and Stay in Love with God; Love that does not over attempt to overcome evil with evil but overcomes evil with good.

     Be that View Master, let others see the Light of Christ being lived out in and through you.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.




2.   Preaching Well, Volume IV, Number 5.

3.   Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, 1983)