Genuine love

What does this mean to you?

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good (Romans 12:9 NIV).

It says I must resist the temptations that suck me in, so I don’t fall into sin, right? That’s what most of us hear, but that’s not what Paul said at all. It’s actually about loving people, not individual struggle.

It’s about sincere love, caring for each other. The verbs Paul used for hate and cling were plural — something we do together. He was describing communal life, the way we treat each other. To love genuinely requires us to confront and remove (hate) the evils that undermine our shared life, any actions that serve power instead of serving each other, any forms of oppression that harm each other. Conversely, we must reinforce (cling to) those fragile actions that help people to feel included, accepted, loved by the God we represent, so we are the community that enacts the good news of God’s restoration project (the message of Romans 1–11).

The real temptation is to give up on each other, instead of remaining devoted to each other:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10).

How do we remain devoted to each other when it gets tough? Remember how God remained devoted to us.

In the opening chapters of this letter, Paul set out how humanity did not remain faithful to our heavenly sovereign. God didn’t give up on his; he committed himself to restore humanity into his care through Abraham’s descendants, but the covenant people proved unfaithful too. So, does God give up on us because the covenant has been violated? That’s not God’s character, Paul says: “Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!” (Romans 3:3-4)

So how do we represent the faithful God who remains devoted to us? We remain devoted to each other.

How did Jesus treat us? The one who deserved the greatest honour was totally dishonoured in crucifixion, treating us with honour above himself. That image of Jesus inspires Paul to say, Honour one another above yourselves.

Spirituality is not an individual thing. Romans 12–16 is his application of the gospel, and none of it is about individual piety. Spirituality is how we treat each other. We were designed for community. God was serious when he said, A human on their own isn’t good (Genesis 2:18). The expression of faith is love: community restored under King Jesus.

God calls us to be the community of people who love genuinely, hating the evils that divide us, adhering to the good that draws us together, remaining devoted to each other, honouring each other above the self.

The gospel in practice is a community that loves genuinely. Spirituality is the Spirit-animated embodiment of God loving us in his Son.

[previous: Finding your identity (Romans 12:3-12)]

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview College Dean

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