“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (v. 13).
“Bless those who persecute [you]; bless and do not curse them” (v. 14).
Three things worth noting:
- Note the word for “contribute” in v. 13: koinōneō–share, partner, fellowship. This is the common word for having fellowship, a gathered-church kind of fellowship (cf. Acts 2:42). Although “contribute” is a perfectly good English action word to use here (I use it in my own translation), we cannot escape that Paul harnesses a word that describes the gathered-church: koinonia, a gather-fellowship-sharing-having-all-things-in-common-church. This is how the church in Acts and the early church (up to AD 150 at least) met the needs of the saints: as they gathered for a meal (that’s the supper, folks!), all got to eat, the poor and the wealthy, the widow and the orphan, children, wives, slaves, and men, the haves and the have nots (cf. 1 Corinthians 11). The gathered-church is the locus of meeting the needs of the saints (i.e., Christians, enemies, strangers, unequals now become family), whom you must remember is a gathering of strangers and unequals, of all types from the marginally unwanted to the wealthy and socially acceptable. They, together, meet the needs of others because they were “housed” together as new family in worship as a gathered-church–with a meal (if you haven’t caught that yet).
- In verse 14 the “you” (“those who persecute [you]”) is actually (probably) not part of the original text. It seems logical to say, “those who persecute you,” yet the manuscript support is very thin for its inclusion and it was, most likely, inserted very much later. So, in my translation I remove it. It is not so much “those who are persecuting you, the church at Rome” (which was happening), but bless any who persecute the church anywhere and every where. The nuance is slight (that’s why future scribes probably inserted the “you”), but it is bolder and broader without it: bless those that persecute. Period.
- Now the big pun, the use of diōkō in verses 13 and 14 (“seek,” “to show”/“intentionally pursue,” v. 13; and in v. 14, "persecute"). See the photo below–I highlight the words so you can see them. The word diōkō can and is often the word used to indicate persecution of Christians, the church, even of Jesus in the Gospels. Its simple, root idea is “pursue, seek,” but carries a strong, more intentional nuance. Thus my translation, “intentionally pursue” in verse 13. That Paul would use the same word to describe those who would bring harm to the church and to describe the church’s call to “hospitality” (literally, the love of the stranger) in their homes (or at a minimum at the designated home of the gathered-church) is both ironic and instructive. Ironic, because the church is called to use their households as a place of intentional hospitality (loving the stranger) despite that there are those hostile in persecuting the church. In fact, this is how we win our persecutors! Exercising the same hospitality God has shown in Christ Jesus, making enemies into friends and family. Instructive, because this is how the church “does good” (v. 9b). Later at the end of the chapter, Paul is going to command us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 22). This is a gathered-church thing—not simply an individual Christian thing. It is through the gathered-church that evil is overcome: this is how we are not overcome by evil, that is, overcoming evil by doing good (back to intentionally pursuing hospitality). See how that works in this context. See how important the gathered-church is!
I am the author of Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church's Task of Evangelism, a deep, exegetical read into the Gospel of Mark. All royalties from this book go to support our church planting ministry in the Hill community of New Haven, CT. The book and its e-formats can be found on Amazon, Barns'n Noble, (and most other online book distributors) or through the publisher, Wipf & Stock directly.
For more information on our church plant >> Learning Local in The Hill