Alright, so it has been a long while since I’ve posted–been busy with work and all. But ultimately, it’s been because I’ve stumbled on a topic in my Bible studies that I have had a hard time wrapping my head around.
“Let love be genuine.” (Romans 12:9, ESV)
This statement is is a stand alone in the chapter–meaning that Paul wanted it to be separate because he wanted to set the tone for the rest of the chapter, that everything that followed was to be coming from a genuine love. But what is genuine love?
Have you ever been in a relationship where you were completely in love with the other person, and you opened up yourself completely to them and poured your strength, heart, soul, and mind to them? But in the end, you discovered that they weren’t giving any of that back to you? That they were only using you and in fact, was using another person in the same way? Typically, in today’s culture, we see that in this dynamic–girl pours herself emotionally and physically out to a guy, but the guy doesn’t return it, and eventually is using another woman the same way at the same time. Both women get hurt in the end because they thought that the guy was loving them, but instead, only using them.
From a biblical view, that is called false love. Love does not take, it only gives. For believers, do not expect anything in return–that also falsifies love. Love gives without the expectation of anything in return for it.
But what is genuine love?
This is how I’ve been studying Romans 12:9’s meaning of genuine love:
- Purity, understanding, patience, and kindness
- Good conscience and sincere faith
- Obeying the truth from the heart
- Hating evil
- Love good and show justice
- Test people, show what is good, stay away from evil
A. The first part of genuine love is purity, understanding, patience, and kindness. If one of these is lacking, the others will be weaker. And if they are weak, it is difficult to have genuine love. Purity, when faced with temptation, showing understanding to those who are struggling with sin, patience to those who hate you, and kindness to those in need.
B. A good conscience and sincere faith, these are also needed for love to be genuine. A good conscience- a better way to put it would be a clear conscience. If you are harboring any kind of sin-specifically, though, anything that causes you to hate yourself or another person will take away the genuineness of your love. 1 John says that if you say you love your fellow man, but have hate in your heart–you are a liar. Even Jesus raised the bar on this issue, saying,
“You have heard it said, “Do not kill,” but I say to you–if you have anger in your heart, you are guilty of murder.”
But, a genuine love also comes from a sincere faith. If you claim to follow Christ, you claim to follow all his teachings and believe everything he said. Same thing applies here that it does about the clear conscience. If you claim something but your behavior says otherwise, you’re a hypocrite as well as a liar.
C. Obeying the truth from the heart actually has 2 parts to it. Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Essentially, Jesus was saying here that God wants you to love Him with every fiber of your being. Even when it gets tough to love Him, He wants you to remain steadfast. Samuel, in his rebuke of King Saul, asked him this question:
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22, ESV)
Samuel was saying that obeying is what God wants, more than shows of faith, lofty prayers, or just good deeds. All of those are great–don’t get me wrong–but if you truly love God, you will find that you have to give up what you want, and obey what God wants you to do. The second part to this is also the conclusion–Jesus said that those who wish to follow him must deny himself, take up his cross, and then follow. It takes that realization that you must humble yourself before God, and take up His way of life.
D. Hating evil–sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, nothing with God is that easy. This is where people confuse the lines. God calls us to love our enemies while at the same time, hating evil. Sounds a bit contradictory, I know. But what Paul means here is not hating the evil in others–for that would surely lead us down the path of hating the person, and as I’ve mentioned before, hating someone is akin to killing them. What Paul meant was hating the evil in us. Our own evil, in other words. Going back to Romans 8:13, it says,
“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die. But if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Proverbs also calls us to guard our hearts, for it is the wellspring of righteousness. We are in a constant state of warfare with our old sinful selves. As the Bible says: “Beware the devil, for he is like a prowling lion, seeking someone to devour.”
E. Want to know how your love can be shown to be genuine? It really marks itself that way when you are in a position to show justice, but instead of bringing the whole hammer down on the person, you temper it with grace and mercy. Justice is still meted out, of course–but if you can’t show compassion, how will that person view you down the road later in life? Temper justice with grace, and you will show everyone that your are a fair and merciful person–even more so in a culture that literally believes in an “eye for an eye.”
F. Testing others is the culmination of genuine love in the body of Christ. If there is someone in the body that is coloring the genuineness, it has to be corrected or removed. If it isn’t, then the whole body is affected and God’s Word becomes unclear and muddied. It is important to test other believers in this as well because it helps their faith to grow and their love for Christ to grow stronger.
To close, God’s Word teaches us how to apply all of these topics–and if you want the genuine love that Paul talks about in Romans 12:9, look at the succeeding 12 verses of the chapter–clear examples of everything I’ve talked about. Study God’s Word! If you’ve been looking for love but keep finding it in the wrong places, look no further than the genuine love of Christ–shown to us on the cross.