“Let love be genuine…”
The song “Elijah” by Rich Mullins has been coming up frequently as of late on my Running Playlist, and this particular line has stuck in my head:
There’s people been friendly, but they’d never be your friends
Sometimes this has bent me to the ground
Sadly, I think we all know too well what this verse means. There are those who will be nice to your face, but would never be your friend. You’ve got hundreds of “Friends” on Facebook, but not one person who calls to check in, or stops by for a visit. There is no pain quite like that of a betrayal of someone once considered a friend. The more “connected” we try to get with Social-Media, or throwing ourselves into our kid’s school and extracurricular activities, the more isolated and alone we feel. We hear “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24), and we ask, “Where is that brother for me?” We long for genuine friendship, for connection, for belonging.
When Paul addressed the Church in Rome about their life together as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1), he began with this notion of genuine love. The word “genuine” here is “anypokritos” in the Greek, literally meaning, “without hypocrisy.” Historically, the word “hypocrite” is a theatrical term, referring to those who wore a mask in order to assume or pretend to be someone or something which they are not. So Paul is saying, “Don’t be a false friend, don’t be a poser!” Donald Barnhouse once wrote, “True love must leave the stage and walk the paths of real life.” There is no room in the Christian life for pretend love, because that is an empty love, it isn’t really love at all.
This is demonstrated throughout the New Testament:
- When Peter was forgiven and restored, the question was not, “Do you believe in me?” but “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-19).
- The parable of the Good Samaritan was told as an illustration of what loving your neighbor looks like (Luke 10:27-37).
- Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another, even as he has love us, in laying down our lives for one another (John 13:34).
- There is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
- Love for Christ is demonstrated in obedience to His commands (John 14:23-24).
- And perhaps hitting the nail directly on its head: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17–18).
The love that is characteristic of the Christian life and community is not an empty sentimentality; it is not a mere profession of love without an affection to support it. No, it is a genuine love that is modeled on the sacrificial love of Christ Jesus our Lord. You cannot say you love God and the church unless you are willing to back it up with genuine love. Get real, because the world doesn’t need another pretender, another false friend and empty demonstration of love.
- The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that is slow to anger and quick to forgive the offenses of others, even before they seek forgiveness.
- The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that puts other’s needs before your own, and cares for and visits those in need.
- The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that bears the burdens of others and earnestly prays for each other.
- The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that puts in overtime at work in order to help pay your neighbor’s electric bill.
- The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that turns from sin and wickedness and cherishes godliness in the practice of righteousness.
This love is not a façade or an act. There are no “5 Easy Steps” to having Genuine Christian Love. No, this love is born from a new heart, a heart that is filled with and by the love of God for us in Jesus Christ – “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working righteousness in us. It is the outward demonstration of the inward working of God’s love for us.
The greatest commandment, the highest calling, is to love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). So let your love be genuine and sincere.