Specific Behavioral Principles to Guide Moral Discernment (Romans 12:9–21)
Paul identifies specific guiding principles to help us serve as conduits overarching concern to let love be genuine—or, literally, “unhypocritical” (Rom. 12:9). The rest of Romans 12:9–13 elaborates on genuine love, including honor, patience in suffering, perseverance in prayer, generosity to those in need, and hospitality to everyone.
Of particular note is Romans 12:16–18, where Paul encourages the Romans to “live in harmony with one another.” Specifically, he says, this means associating with the least powerful in the community, resisting the urge to repay evil for evil, and, whenever possible, living peaceably with everyone.
If we have genuine love, then we care about the people we work for and among. By definition, when we work, we do so at least partly as a means to an end. But we can never treat the people we work among as a means to an end. Each is inherently valuable in his or her own right, so much so that Christ died for each one. This is genuine love, to treat each person as one for whom Christ died and rose again to bring new life.
We show genuine love when we honor the people with whom we work, calling everyone by name regardless of their status, and respecting their families, cultures, languages, aspirations, and the work they do. We show genuine love when we are patient with a subordinate who makes a mistake, a student who learns slowly, a co-worker whose disability makes us uncomfortable. We show genuine love through hospitality to the new employee, the late-night arrival, the disoriented patient, the stranded passenger, the just-promoted boss. Every day we face the possibility someone will do us some evil, small or great. But our protection is not to do evil to others in self-defense, nor to be worn down into despair, but to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). We cannot do this by our own power, but only by living in the Spirit of Christ.