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)
In the book of Romans Paul gives us a picture of what it looks like when we sincerely love other believers.
Sincere love is devoted. Believers are to be kindly affectionate to one another. It is my understanding that this is actually one word in the Greek. It is also the only place this word is used in the New Testament It comes from two words that when put together refer to the mutual love of parents and children or husbands and wives. It expresses the love of a close knit family. I think the NIV does a great job of capturing the point here by saying, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Believers should love other believers with the same kind of devoted love that family members have for one another.
We often talk about being a church family. This idea is to be more than words. It is to be the way that we truly feel about one another. We are to love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to love one another as though we were family because we are family. We’ve been redeemed by the same Savior and we all have the same Heavenly Father. Within the Church, particularly within the local church, we are to consider one another to be more than people we set by and worship with. We are to consider one another to be family and love each other with the kind of love we have for family.
Sincere love gives honor. In honor we are to give preference to one another. The idea here is that believers are not to seek honor for themselves. Instead, believers are to give preference to others when it comes to giving honor. As believers, we are to recognize the service, devotion and contributions of other believers and honor them for it. Rather than sitting around waiting on someone to praise us, we are to take the lead and praise others. As believers, we should love one another enough to honor those who deserve to be honored.
Sincerely love meets needs. Believers are to distribute to the needs of the saints and be given to hospitality. Both of these refer to doing what we can to meet the basic needs of other believers. There were always some in the church that were suffering for one reason or another. Many times this suffering resulted in believers not having the basic necessities of life. Other believers, particularly those of this person’s church, were to do what they could to meet these needs and provide the basic necessities of life. That is what Paul is talking about here.
Think about what we see in the book of Acts. The believers in the early church were very serious about meeting the needs of struggling believers. One of my favorite stories about this is in Acts 4. The church was suffering persecution that left many believers without the basic necessities of life. So believers in the church took action. These believers had such love for one another that no one considered what they had to be their own. Instead, if there was a person in need they willingly and joyfully gave what they had to help those in need. Now, I’m not saying they gathered up their junk, had a garage sell and gave the proceeds to help those in need. The Bible says that some sold land and others sold houses and then gave the money to the Apostles so they could distribute the money to those in need (Acts 4:32-37). That is sincere love meeting needs.
The kind of sacrificial giving found in the book of Acts is pretty unnatural but I think that’s kinda the point. What greater way to demonstrate the sincere love that believers have for one another than by loving others enough to make sacrifices to help them in their time of need? That is a powerful demonstration of our devotion to Christ and our sincere love for other believers.
This is the way that believers sincerely love one another. While many of the things we see here may sound odd to our ears, they are rooted in the Scriptures. When you read through the New Testament you see that this is how believers in the early church demonstrated their sincere love for one another. One of the great flaws in the modern western church is that believers often do not sincerely love other believers in the ways described in Romans. We must understand that what we see here was the normal way believers loved one another in the New Testament.