9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
I have been in situations where I witnessed a friend being super sweet to someone else, but as soon as that person left the room the friend told me how much they couldn’t stand that other person. There are certain people we would consider to be “fake” or superficial with their kindness and most of us would say we don’t like that very much. We would much rather have friends who are genuine.
As I study this exhortation in Romans 12 verse 9 to love without hypocrisy or to let my love for my brothers and sisters in Christ be genuine, I am considering how poorly I have loved this way at times. It’s easy to point to “my friend” as an example…but what about me? How well do I love the brethren?
How about you? Would you say that your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ is genuine?
Loving this way means that our love is unfeigned, undisguised and sincere (Strong’s concordance).
The opposite of this is a fake kind of love that is hypocritical, self-centered, a love that seeks its own benefit.
This is the way that the world often loves to get a better job position, to have the most influential friends or with any kind of goal to get something in return (including love or friendship). If we go back a few verses in Romans chapter 12 to verse one we can see that Paul urges us to live and love with a different kind of attitude.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In the body of Christ we don’t interact with each other based on what we can get from that other person, we interact with them sacrifically. We don’t love the way the world loves, to get ahead or to get something in return, we follow Christ’s example to love with a heart full of worship ready to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.
In addition to loving with sacrifice, we are encouraged to love each member of the body of Christ from a sincere and genuine place in our hearts.
I talked about my friend who was “fake” and loved with hypocrisy, but I have known many women who consistently loved others well from a sincere heart.
This is the kind of woman who never has a bad word to say about anyone else. She doesn’t gossip to other ladies. She isn’t nice to our faces at church and then on the car ride home details how much she doesn’t like us and how hard it was to be nice today. It is not wearisome to come and visit with us or even to put up with us because she just loves us from her heart.
Like any good mom I used to teach my kids to be nice to the other kids in the neighborhood and at school. I found myself telling them…”you don’t have to like them, you just have to love them.”
While technically I believe this is a true statement it might not be helpful when we are considering our interactions with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times have you heard someone say something like this: “I sure do love that sister in Christ but boy I don’t like her one bit.”
We give ourselves license to hold on to negative thoughts and even hatred in our hearts while we pat ourselves on the back at how nice we are to people’s faces. I have done it too, I have been there too many times.
This is not the kind of love Paul and ultimately God is calling us to have in Romans 12:9. This is not a sincere, genuine love from our hearts. It’s a fake and hypocritical kind of love that does not belong in the church. It can’t belong in the church because it is no different than the world.
Our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ are on display to a watching world, and they need to see something different. They need to see a love that is devoted. A love that is genuine. A love that is real. A love that Christ came to show by his sacrifice and a love that he chooses to show through us.
I imagine if you are a Christian reading this you are probably on board with this at the least as a concept. But I know some of you may be grieved at reading this because as much as you would love to have a genuine love for “that person” it just doesn’t seem like it’s possible. Sister, if God desires this for His church He will provide this kind of love for you.
He already has provided this kind of love in the person of Jesus Christ. This might not be an overnight change but the first step on this journey is to choose to walk down this road of genuine love.
So, here are some things that can help you on your journey to love well.
Not to sound contradictory, but the first step for you might be, to be nice to this person even if you are not quite there on a heart level. This is different than being fake when this is not your end goal. This is a first step of action that will help build affection in your heart for the ones you struggle with. When the motivation is to start your journey and not to mask your true feelings it might be your first step to love them well.
Choose not to gossip about the person you are struggling with. While it feels good at the time to vent, it is making it more difficult for your heart to be filled with this kind of pure love. Choosing not to gossip about them will set our feet towards this journey to love them well.
Choose to think positive thoughts about this person. If the struggle is significant you might be thinking several negative and unhelpful thoughts a day. This is sewing seeds of hatred in your heart. In addition to that, our thoughts often direct our feelings. We are more in charge of our feelings than we realize. If we spend all day thinking loving, positive thoughts about this person, and praying for them throughout the day, it will at the least help us on our way to loving them well.
See them as God sees them. The brother or sister that we struggle with was created in His image. The personality that we struggle with is part of God’s unique and purposeful creation. If we change our perspective and see them as loved by God we will be taking one more step on our journey to love them well.
Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray that God will give you this kind of genuine love in your heart for all of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray that his love will replace any animosity or hatred for any specific people you might be struggling with. Pray that his strength will be shown in your weakness. Repent of any way you are not currently loving your brothers and sisters sincerely. Ask God to take you on this journey to love well.
Finally, stay in the fight. Don’t give up. It can be extremely challenging to sacrificially set ourselves aside and put this other person ahead of ourselves. It can be hard to keep our thoughts to ourselves and not gossip and even harder to control those thoughts in the first place, but it is part of the greatest commandment to love God and to love others well.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
*Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog post. In next week’s post we will look at the exhortation to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good in this series on loving the brethren from Romans 12:9-11.