Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (The Apostle Paul, Romans 12:9)
As you have probably already guessed, I love the language of the scriptures with its unique choices of phrases and words. I enjoy the rich impact these life-filled words have on our hearts, souls and relationships. With that being said, the scriptures have become amazing simplistic for me in recent years. Simplistic, yet incredibly profound.
We must draw as our conclusion from the above verse that anything less than sincere or un-hypocritical love is considered is to be evil. Just some of the facets of the definition from the Greek word for evil include: hurtful, degenerate, morally derelict, vicious, of the devil, malicious and wicked. Yes, that is only a partial of a very heavy definition! The original language for “good” in that verse includes facets such as: righteous, agreeable, fruitful and joyful, excellent and distinguished to name a few. The word “cling” basically means: to become one with, to be in agreement with, to stick like glue, to become inseparable.
Now, let me digress back to my first paragraph for a moment. You may wonder why I said the scriptures have become “simplistic” for me in recent years. Here is why: “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:40) Of course we know that the two commandments that Jesus is referring to are the love God (with every fiber of who you are) and love your neighbors as you love yourself commandments. I believe that the weight Jesus gives these commandments by calling them “the greatest” reveals the bottom-line heart intent of the Father. I further believe that Jesus is saying with verse 40 that all the scriptures, every single one of them, as we embrace them (cling), has the purpose and the power to lead us toward a whole hearted love relationship with God, others and self. He is actually transforming us to become an army of radical Lovers! So that now, when I read any scripture, I believe it is written with that holy goal in mind. By the way, which do you find most challenging, loving God, other people or yourself? Selah!
In verses 10 through 21 Paul begins to flesh out for us what un-hypocritical love looks like. Paul is giving us clear directives on how we cling to that which is good. Here are just some of the key words from those verses that I believe include both actions and attitude: devotion, give preference, honor, diligence, perseverance, prayerful, contributing and hospitable.
Then, as Paul often does, speaking from the heart of the Lord, the whole thing gets ramped up and includes: be so close that when one weeps- you weep, when one rejoices – you rejoice. Walk in humility, hang out with the unpopular and choose peace over revenge. He goes on to say that we should be involved in meeting the needs of the very one who treats us as if he is our enemy.
Then Paul concludes his admonition with these words: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) This is another way of saying “Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.” They very act of “clinging” and “overcoming” has the transforming impact of forming us and shaping us into the image of our Savior.
I have come to the conclusion after 34 years as a believer, over half of that in full time ministry, that when I have a less than sincere love for another (hypocritical) there is some part of me that is out of touch with God’s love for me. The inability (choice) to not sincerely love another indicates there is some place in my heart that has not yet surrendered in faith and humility to the “too good to be true” (but it is true) reality of God’s amazing, sacrificial and unwavering love for me. Simplistic thinking? Maybe, but I don’t think so.
Recent Example: I have been blessed with a temperament that easily likes other people. In most cases I just naturally like and enjoy all kinds of folks (I guess that is a necessary characteristic for a missionary). Please notice that in the above sentence I said “most”, not all.
Sometime a while back, when this blog was more in my mind than on paper, I was contacted by someone whose personality I find a bit challenging, shall we say. Can you relate? Not a bad person at all, but a little odd, a little grating, socially awkward and not particularly warm. They wanted to talk and get my thoughts about a topic. Before I said yes, I observed myself going through all kinds of mental gyrations and gymnastics wanting to avoid spending time with this person. I found myself placing limits and barriers on how much time I would spend and what I would do and not do! We must all have boundaries you know! But then the gentle yet relentless love-grip of the Lord caught my attention. He began to show me that all of His children are some crazy mixture of extraordinary and amazing punctuated with odd and peculiar. With me at the top of the list! In fact with the parable of the Feast in Luke 14:16-24, it was the poor, crippled, blind and lame (verse 21) who said “yes” to the invitation. We are in fact a kingdom of poor, crippled, blind and lame children of God who are being transformed into a beautiful spotless bride! And we are all in different places and stages on that journey toward holiness and wholeness (Ephes. 1:4 The Message). With yet another personal revelation of God’s love for me, even with my own spiritual limp, love and acceptance began to rise in my heart for the one who called. In a small, but I think significant way, I moved another step closer, toward whole-hearted love for God, my oddball neighbors and even my ragamuffin self. The Lord is good!