The Keys to Their Heart
Romans 12 is one of the most critical chapters in the New Testament. It’s the start of the “therefores” after 11 chapters of the Gospel’s message and reputation in Romans 1-11. In the last of the exhortations that apply to the believing community’s relationship to itself, Romans 12:1-13, Paul encourages the practice of hospitality, v. 13.
The verses that follow verse 13, and finish the chapter are addressed to Christians, giving them instruction on how to relate to those outside the faith. You could say they are the hospitality verses addressed to the question of how to relate to non-believers.
He begins with, and I’m paraphrasing, “When treated badly, find something good to say or do for your enemy; when good things happen to your enemy, rejoice; when trouble comes their way, mourn with them, vv. 14-15.” Paul continues in his counter-cultural admonitions, I’m paraphrasing again, “Be friends, real friends with those who are down and out, invite them into your home, have meals together, associate with them, count them as your friends. Do not think that you are so educated, or moneyed, or good looking, or cultured that someone from the other side of the tracks isn’t worthy enough to have them in your home, v. 16.”
What we discover is that the last exhortation to hospitality amongst believers is extended in detail to the non-believing community. Of course, the closeness will be different, but that does not mean that it will not be good, after all, in all their being they are created in the image of the One we love. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 exhorts us to see no one by the outward flesh. We are the King’s ambassadors to all, without any external distinction.
Our hospitality to each other as believers needs to be extended to those outside the community. Part of this is a mechanism for living in peace, v. 18, is to “overcome evil with good.” We do good to evildoers in such a way and with such volume that they are forced to rethink and redo their deeds. Peter comments, “that they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe the, glorify God on the day of visitation, 1 Peter 2:12.” Our hospitable attitude and actions to difficult people, non-believers, will be a means for them to come to know who we know: God.