Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.Romans 12:9-10
True Love Obsession: Every romantic comedy seems to indicate that everyone is living in the tension of longing for and seeking true love. According to this worldview, we live in a deficit until the day we find true love, and then when we find this true love, we will “live happily ever after.”
But not so fast. The bible and a close examination of our own real-life experience will tell us that once we find our spouse, our best friend, our roommate, or our neighbors whom we love, the tension of our lives does not just melt away.
The bible and our life experience demonstrate that the law of sin wages war in our souls. We are all hard to love and find it hard to love others. This is why Paul in Romans 12:9 instructs the church to “Let love be genuine.” or literally the “love without hypocrisy.” This implies that even on our best days, when we love others, our love has a propensity to be insincere or love which appears to be loving but under the surface is not actually loving at all.
True Love Is Desired But Not Easily Obtained How can this be? How can a world full of people who obsess about love be so bad at truly loving other people? The problem is sin. When the scriptures instruct us on loving others, they tell us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In our sin, we forsake God’s design for love and are completely obsessed with ourselves and how we can honor or serve ourselves the best. But love toward others as Paul says elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 13:5 does not serve self. Love is what the world is about because people cannot escape that they are made in the image of God. God is love- the three persons of the Trinity love one another eternally. Paul speaks to Christians in Romans 12:9-10 exhorting us to leave behind our old patterns of insincere love that was actually always really just about ourselves.
Where Is True Love Found?? In the gospel. Romans 12:9-10 follows on the heels of Paul’s explanation of the gospel in Romans chapters 1-11. It is therefore essential to look back at the gospel if we want to know and express sincere love. Paul says we should abhor our fake love and cling to good and true love. We should, as Romans 12:10 says, “outdo one another in showing honor.” The great difficulty with loving another in this way is that love is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Genuine love doesn’t flow naturally out of our hearts (see Matthew 15:28-30). We need the Spirit to fill our hearts with the love of Christ. In order to outdo one another in showing honor means we must have the Spirit do his work. The Spirit unites us to Christ and shines a light upon Jesus’ love and the apostle’s teaching about him. One might define showing honor to another as showing preferential treatment. The Spirit shines light upon how it is that the Father has loved his adopted children with preferential treatment. The Father has shown each of us preferential treatment in the giving up of his dear Son so that whoever believes may be forgiven and counted as righteous (see John 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).
If we are to become those who love without hypocrisy, it is there for the taking. We have not because we ask not (James 4:2-3). The good news is that all believers can pray and ask the Spirit to produce the Father’s love in us which we see Christ exhibited in the gospel. Only believers in Jesus can give the kind of love demanded in Romans 12:9-10 because we alone in this world have received true love as the Spirit united us to Christ (Ephesians 1:11-14). We have received the preferential treatment of the atonement in which Jesus outdid every person we’ve ever known in showing us undeserved honor. May our church be those who pray and ask the Lord to fill us with genuine love for others. One of the ways we can become a “church for Norman” is to be those who, having found true love in Christ, give genuine love to our neighbors.