Love Without Hypocrisy
[continuing our exploration of Romans 12]
In the Contemporary English Version this section of Romans 12 (verses 9-21) is entitled ‘Rules for Christian Living’ and is made up of almost bullet point wisdom about how to live. It’s really accessible & easy to understand. But we’re going to explore a few of the verses in a little more depth & understand how they apply to us, here and now. Today we’re going to look at the first part of verse 9 – here it is in a few different translations:
‘Be sincere in your love for others.’ – CEV
‘Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.’ – NLT
‘Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.’ – MSG
It seems too simple to just say ‘love must be sincere’. I’m pretty sure we’d all say that’s obvious, because if it’s not sincere, it isn’t love. And I think that’s Paul’s point when he wrote this to the early Christians. Even back then, it seems it was easy to fake it – to pretend – to be a hypocrite and make out that you love someone when actually you don’t. Does that sound familiar?
We’re not talking about that slushy romantic love either – we really don’t have time to address that here (that would take a lifetime!). But the kind of love Paul was referring to is known as ‘agape’ love. It is a selfless, servant-hearted and sacrificial love. The kind of love you can have even for a stranger (if your heart is right). This part of the verse is talking about putting others first, serving their needs and even making sacrifices to ensure that happens. Agape love is an active love – it doesn’t sit back and watch & contemplate – it does. It gets involved. It rolls its sleeves up and gets its hands dirty (well, you get the point I hope).
Take another look at this verse in the New Living Translation: ‘don’t just pretend to love others; really love them’. When our heart isn’t right, and when we don’t really love someone, we pretend. We pretend to listen to them, but actually our mind has wandered and it’s thinking about something we need to do next or somewhere else we’d rather be. We say that we’ll pray for someone, but because they’re not truly in our hearts we either forget or make excuses, if we ever intended to pray at all (probably we weren’t listening to them anyway). We pretend to care about them & their needs, but actually unless we step in a do something to help the, are we doing anything but pretending so that we look good?
But agape love is an active love. It’s not a love which simply says something and then forgets; it says something and then does what it says. It’s not hypocritical – it is sincere. It really listens, it really prays, and it really cares. Remember this verse comes immediately after the heading of ‘Rules for Christian Living’ – and it says ‘be sincere in your love for others’. That’s pretty clear – and it means putting in the effort.
There’s a famous passage which is most commonly read at weddings, because it describes how important love is. But it isn’t about love between a husband & wife, it’s a letter to a church, a group of early Christians who’ve made a mess of being Christians and need putting straight. In that passage Paul says that we can speak the language of angels, have the gift of prophecy, can understand all mysteries, have faith that can move mountains, give all we have to the poor, but, if we do not have love we are nothing. Our amazing talents & gifts, our good deeds and our best intentions are utterly worthless if we do not have love.
‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’ – 1 John 4:10-12 NIV
– how would life be different if Jesus loved like I love?
– if Jesus’ love was active, shouldn’t mine be too?
– what do I need to do to ensure I no longer pretend?
Challenge: [because agape is an active love]
I challenge you to text/email/message someone and let them know you care about them
You don’t need to mention the word ‘love’
Ask them how you can pray for them
Listen deeply to their response
Its been good to read this each day of lent