Genuine Love

“Let love be genuine…”
(Rom 12:9)

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.

SDG

One Thing

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life”
(Psalm 27:4)

What’s your “One Thing?”

The world is filled with so many good things that it’s hard to really focus on the “One Thing” that really brings meaning and satisfaction to life.  We are so busy chasing after straight A’s, first place, the corner office, the tidy home – all really good things – that we often end up missing the One really great thing.  At the end of the story, we find that we’ve been majoring in the minors, and minoring in the majors; we’ve never really found the “One Thing.”

So what is that “One Thing?”  What brings meaning, purpose, and direction to our lives?  Well, if you remember City Slickers, Curly never told Mitch what that One Thing was, only that that’s what YOU have to figure out for yourself.  So according to that theory, your One Thing may be completely different from my One Thing.  If that’s the case, then our individual pursuit of the One Thing will lead us all in different, and often competing, directions.  If finding my One Thing, my happiness, my security, means trampling on your One Thing, well… that’s just how it goes.

I’m reminded of the song My One Thing, by Rich Mullins:

Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think they’ve got it coming

Interestingly, Scripture does tell us, so much clearer that Curly ever would, what the One Thing really is.  If you want to know that inner peace, to find meaning and satisfaction in this life, to be secure even in the life to come, there is only One Thing you need: You Need to Know and Walk with Christ.

The rich young ruler, who in his estimation had kept the law without fail, asked Jesus what he needed to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus told him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).  This young man had everything he could ask for: he was financially set; he had lived a good and moral life; what more could he need?  He only lacked One Thing: following Christ.

Martha served Jesus faithfully; she even had the opportunity to host Him in her home.  She, no doubt, laid out the finest linens, served the most exquisite meal, and worked tirelessly to make sure that no detail was left out in the care of her Lord.  Yet there was her sister, Martha, sitting idly by at the feet of Jesus.  “Lord, couldn’t you tell Martha to get up and help out?”  Mary pleaded.  But Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).  All of Martha’s service and attention to detail was good, but she had neglected the One Thing she really needed – to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Even the Psalmist joins in this witness, telling us where to find the One Thing our hearts desire.  In Psalm 27:4 we read, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”  Dwelling in the house of the Lord, abiding in His presence – that is the One Thing.

The apostle Paul said something similar, when he writes, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Paul’s birth rite, upbringing and education, his righteousness and service – all of these “good things” were actually hindering him from knowing the One Thing he really needed, and so he gladly laid them aside that he might know Christ.  Christ Jesus is the One Thing we need more than any other.

What are the many things you are anxious over?  What are the many things that you chase after, only to find yourself wanting more once you’ve got them?  Are you running yourself ragged trying to maintain the all-so-many good things at the cost of having the One Thing; at the cost of the daily, quiet, sweet-communion with Jesus, the friend of sinners, the captain of your salvation?

Let all of these things go that you might follow Him.  Settle yourself at His feet that you might learn from Him.  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” – let this be your One Thing – “and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

Rich Mullin’s song continues:

Save me from those things that might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don’t want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with

My one thing
You’re my one thing
And the pure in heart shall see God

SDG