Romans 12:9-10 —
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 —
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Greetings, readers! Thank you again for reading, and I hope that it is building you up and helping you to grow in Jesus! If you have been reading with us, you know that we have been walking through Romans 12 and looking at the bride of Christ – the Church – and what it means to be the Church.
Romans 12:1-2 show us what it means to genuinely worship Jesus as living sacrifices. There we see the stark reminder that we need to be transformed from the inside out – specifically our minds – and seek to not conform to the world but to Christ.
Then, Romans 12:3-8 expanded on the idea of being “transformed by the renewal of our minds” by showing us how we should think about ourselves and the rest of the body of Christ. We should remember to not think too highly of ourselves. And we should remember that the body of Christ is made up of more than just us. The Church is God’s bride and getting to belong to that body is a special thing.
The rest of chapter twelve looks at what some people like to call the “marks of the true Christian”, but I want to frame it differently in your mind. I want you to think of the rest of Romans 12 (this will take us a few weeks) as your yearly wellness checkup with your doctor; except, in this case, you are meeting with the Great Physician for a spiritual diagnosis.
The first characteristics we will look at have to do with love, and I think the 1 Corinthians 13 passage listed at the beginning gives us the best opportunity to understand the scope of what is expected of us.
No act of service or ministry or faith is enough if it is performed without love. You can be the best preacher in the world and still be the least effective if your ministry does not come from love. You would be just as effective banging trashcan lids together.
The same thing goes for all of the characteristics of the Church (which is why these are listed first). Without love, the Church amounts to nothing and will gain nothing. Think about the reputation that your local church has in its community. Is it known for the love its members show one another? Is it known for showing its community the love of Christ? It’s very likely that – if it is not known for love – it’s not known at all. And without love, the melody of its church bells will be grating to the ears and turn people away.
This is not meant to be an accusation against the character of the Church. These characteristics are meant to instruct the Church on what is expected of it. They are meant to remind us of whose we are. They show us how to “not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2) and to show/teach us how to live so that when the world around us – our communities and neighborhoods – watches, they see Christ and not our failures and faults. This is our opportunity to repent and change the way that we live. So, let’s dive on into the first characteristic: “Let love be genuine” (v. 9a).
The word for “genuine” here is literally the opposite of hypocrite in the original language. It could basically read “let love be without hypocrisy” or “let love not be fake”. This begins in our own hearts and cannot fall on anyone else. It is also easier said than done.
Genuine love stems from the love Christ has for us and how He showed us that love. He loved us when we were unlovable. He brought us in when we were far off.
1 John 3:16 puts this in perspective: “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” In fact, keep going throughout the rest of chapters three and four of 1 John, and you see John back up Paul in saying that love is the first characteristic that shows people have been born again. But the world has had much more effect on us than we would care to admit.
The world around us is full of fake, hypocritical love. The word “love” is tossed about so freely that it is often wasted. It is sometimes used to wound or take advantage of someone or a situation. But that is not the intention here. The word translated “love” here is the word agape which describes the unconditional, never ending, always and forever love of God. Again, it points back to the way that God loves us and uses it as a benchmark for us to learn how to love other people.
Does this mean that if we are messing up here that we are not saved? Not necessarily. What it does mean for us is that we have a love that is continually shown to us that should inspire us to love others. Paul describes that love in 1 Timothy 1:5: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” That is the beginning of genuine love – our hearts changed by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
The next characteristic builds on the first. “Abhor what is evil; hold fast what is good” (v. 9b). This characteristic has two parts. The word “abhor” means “to hate”. It sounds odd to talk about hate in a Bible conversation – especially one about love, but we cannot follow Christ and the world at the same time. Those are two totally different directions. Amos 5:15 adds some context: “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate…”. If you want to follow after Christ, it means that there are some things that are going to have to stop in your life – that is called repentance!
This is tough, but I think Paul explains it well in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 when he says, “test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” Basically, if you are spending time in God’s Word and following what it says, especially regarding loving Him and people, it will be very clear what is right and wrong – good and evil. Love what He loves, and hate what He hates. This needs to happen in your own life before you should ever hope to step into that role in someone else’s life!
We have one more characteristic to look at today that will bind all of the rest of this together. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (v. 10).
The most surefire way that I know of to love others is to put them before yourself. Love is affection and care for someone else. And, as often as the word love is wasted and misused, it is very clear to know when you are loved by someone or not. Remember here that these characteristics describe what the Church should be. And the love that we have been looking at today is definitely different than the world around us. The world around us is filled with hate and despair. This is a dog-eat-dog world where nearly everyone’s mantra is to take care of themselves first. But it should not be so in Christ’s Church.
Our churches should be known for our people taking care of each other. Look at the first church in Acts 2:42-47. They were devoted to the study of the Bible and praying in such a way that it changed their life (Acts 2:42). The Holy Spirit was moving powerfully in their time together (Acts 2:43). None of their people were in need because they loved and took care of each other (Acts 2:44-45). And they longed to both come together and worship the Lord (Acts 2:46) and take that love and the Word of God into their communities (Acts 2:47). And the result was people came to know Christ.
I hope today’s devotion stirred something up in you. I know it has in me. As I study and write these devotions, I find that these areas are what I need to work on in myself. Better yet, they are the areas where Christ is continually molding and shaping me. I do not want to be a clanging cymbal. In fact, I genuinely want people to come away from being around me and feeling the love of Christ. I wish that I could say that is always the case, but I know that it is not. So, what do I do? Do I give up? Absolutely not!
I have to remind myself every day that Jesus Christ left His throne to come to earth and die on the cross for my sin. I have to remember that it was my debt He paid. And I get to remember that death could not hold Him and my sin no longer defines me. A love like that has an effect on a fellow.
So, remember that I love you. And I am praying that God provide you an opportunity to feel His love and share it with someone today.