Love in Action

Friday: Applied Christianity

Romans 12:10-13 In this week’s study, we’ll look at what love does, and why believers are uniquely able to offer consistent love to those around them.
Applied Christianity

Did you know that someone who loves is also someone who prays consistently? It’s right here in verse 12. A literal translation of this verse might be “and in regard to prayer, continuing.” Isn’t “continuing” an interesting word to use? We might have expected any one of a number of other words. But Paul says “continuing” because he was aware that this is just the problem. It is not that we never pray. We almost have to, if we are Christians. But we get tired of praying, our minds wander and we neglect prayer precisely when we most need it. 

Our Lord was aware of this too, which is why He said so much about prayer. If you go through the gospels and study what He said, you will find that in nearly all instances the bottom line of His teaching was simply that we should pray—not that we should be paragons of prayer, or eloquent in prayer, or even that we pray on until we get what we desire (though that is sometimes implied), but simply that we should pray. Because we don’t, at least not when we most need to. 

Do you remember Jesus’ teaching about prayer in Luke 11? After He had given Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus told about a man who knocked on a neighbor’s door late at night because a friend had come and he had nothing to give him, and although the neighbor did not want to get out of bed to help, eventually he did because of the man’s persistence. Jesus also told about human fathers who willingly give their children food when they ask for it, not substituting a snake for a fish or a scorpion for an egg, like some cruel joke. Those stories were meant to illustrate our need, on the one hand, and God’s willingness to meet that need, on the other. 

Then Jesus said, “So… ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” In other words, “Pray.” Just pray! The only reasons we might fail to pray are that: 1) We do not think we need God’s help, thinking that we are adequate of ourselves; or 2) We do not believe God really is a loving heavenly Father. Why else would we not pray or even be in prayer continually? 

The last of Paul’s nine datives is a compound phrase that fills all of verse 13. In our translation it appears as two distinct ideas: 

1. “Share with God’s people who are in need.” 

2. “Practice hospitality.” 

But the Greek text actually combines the ideas, saying, “In regard to the need of the saints, participating, practicing hospitality.” 

This means that Paul is not just talking about giving money to poor Christians. In fact, he is not thinking about money specifically at all. He is thinking about the needs of Christians and about identifying with them in those needs, whatever they might be. If a person is mourning, we should identify with him in his sorrow and give what comfort we can. If another is lonely or abandoned, we should be company for her to the degree we are able. Yes, and we should give to the financial needs of impoverished people too. Jesus made such things a test of whether a person is truly a Christian or not, saying in Matthew 25, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:34-36). Those who had not done that were sent away “to eternal punishment” (v. 46). 

Practical Christianity? I do not know how anything can be more practical than what we’ve studied this week. To love one another, to honor one another, to serve one another, to pray for one another and to meet one another’s needs is the very heart of applied Christianity.

Study Questions
  1. What is Paul saying about prayer in verse 12?
  2. What was the main thrust in Jesus’ teaching about prayer?
  3. How are we to show hospitality?

Application: List the two reasons we might fail to pray. Do you ever find yourself to be guilty of either of these? Do you pray consistently? What keeps you from praying?

Key Point: I do not know how anything can be more practical than what we’ve studied this week. To love one another, to honor one another, to serve one another, to pray for one another and to meet one another’s needs is the very heart of applied Christianity. 

Prayer: Pray diligently for the needs of others. How will you help to meet their needs?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Love Letters from the Lord.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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