Sincerely Love Other Believers

love

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; Romans 12:9-10 (NKJV) distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Romans 12:13 (NKJV)

One of the things you find as you read the New Testament is that believers are to have a particular love for other believers. This idea is repeated over and over again throughout the New Testament I would say that the book of 1 John probably focuses the most on this. In fact, John says that if we don’t love our brothers and sisters in Christ that we can see, then there is no way that we can love a God that we can’t see (1 John 4:20). Multiple times throughout the book, John equates our love for other believers as a proof of salvation. John says that one of the ways we can know that we are saved is by the fact that we love other believers. In the book of Romans Paul gives us a picture of what it looks like when we sincerely love other believers.

Sincere love is free of hypocrisy. The believer is to genuinely love other believers. Believers should not pretend to love but should genuinely love other believers. It is interesting that we are told that sincere love is free of hypocrisy. Originally the word hypocrite referred to an actor playing a part on stage. They held a mask over their faces so they could pretend to be something they weren’t. When Jesus comes along He takes this word and applies it in a negative way to people who go through life pretending to be something they weren’t. He usually used it to refer to the religious leaders who pretended to be righteous and devoted to God when they really weren’t.

Paul follows Jesus example and applies it to those who pretend to love others. Hypocrisy in this context is expressing something outwardly that we don’t feel inwardly. When we pretend to love another believer when we really can’t stand them, we are actors playing a part. We are hypocrites.

John Calvin said. “it is difficult to express how ingenious almost all men are in counterfeiting a love which they do not really possess. They deceive not only others, but also themselves, while they persuade themselves that they have a true love for those whom they not only treat with neglect, but also in fact reject.”[1] Jesus said that believers are to love one another with the same kind of love that He has loved us with. He also said that this love would be the trait that identified us as His followers (John 13:34-35). A sincere love for other believers that is free of hypocrisy is not optional for the believer in Jesus Christ.

Sincere love is discerning. We’ve often heard the cliché that love is blind. While that may be true in some respects, it is not true of the sincere love believers have for one another. Christian love faces the facts and sees the good and the evil in this loved and then responds properly to both. Sincere love discerns between what is good and what is evil. Sincere love abhors what is evil and clings to what is good. To do anything else is not sincere love.

The word abhor is a very strong word. It means to hate with a strong feeling or to look upon with horror. What believers are to abhor, or hate, is what is evil. While this is a general principle that applies across the boards, believers are to hate all that is evil, it has a very specific application in this passage. It means we are to abhor the evil we see in the lives of other believers.

Many people would say that this is out of place in a passage talking about having a sincere love for other believers. Many people would have us believe that a sincere love for other believers is accepting anything and everything as okay.  After all, the idea goes, if you love someone you’ll accept them. That’s what Jesus did. To say that someone is wrong in what they are doing or believing is seen as the ultimate unChristlike and unloving act.

One of the major problems with this is that isn’t actually what Jesus did. Jesus certainly loved sinners. Jesus certainly was a friend to sinners. However, Jesus certainly did not accept their sin. He always expected them to repent of their sin and follow Him. We do not love people in the same way that Jesus loved them when we accept their sin.

The fact of the matter is, we abhor evil because we sincerely love other believers. When we sincerely love someone, we desire what is best for them. This is why we cling to what is good. We cling tightly to what will do the most good and is the most good for them. Sin is not good. As believers, we know the horrific consequences that sin brings into our lives. We don’t want those we love to suffer the pain and the destruction that sin brings because we desire something better for them. There is nothing loving about condoning something that will bring pain and destruction into someone’s life.  A sincere love for other believers that discerns between good and evil is not optional for the believer in Jesus Christ.

This passage has much more to say about what a sincere love for other believers looks like and I’ll finish that part up tomorrow.


[1] John Calvin quoted by James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary – Romans 

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