Avoiding “Lying Love” (An Examination of Unfeigned Love)
Robert Wurtz II
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection.”
(Romans 12:9–10 ESV)
I have often said that Romans 12 is the “altar call” of the book of Romans. it is the chapter where the reader is brought to a decision. As if Paul had written for eleven chapters and then turned to us and said, “How will you respond to this Gospel?”
Self-Sacrifice and Christian Morals
In verse 1 he pleads with us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice — holy and acceptable unto God. In verse 2 he exhorts us not to be conformed to this world and its way of thinking. In verse 3 he stresses the importance of personal humility of mind; we ought to have the mind of Christ who made Himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:6-7). In verses 5-8 he reminds us that we are all important members of the Body of Christ and should honor others above ourselves. We should be kind, generous, and hospitable; that is, we should make people feel welcome in our homes and churches. These teachings all lead to our passage in Romans 12:9-10:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. (Romans 12:9–10 ESV)
Paul begins with the greatest of all Christian attributes exhorting, Let love be genuine. This is literally, “Let love be without hypocrisy” or less technically, “Let love be honest.” The word hypocrite was a terrible word used by Jesus. It means to hide what one is and to pretend to be what one is not. He first used the word in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5). He returns to it in Matthew 15:7 and 22:18. In Hebrew thought, repetition is done for emphasis; hence, we have at least six woes pronounced upon hypocrites in a single chapter (Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). The Greek verb in the active (hupokrinoœ) meant to separate slowly or slightly subject to gradual inquiry. Then the middle was to make answer, to take up a part on the stage, to act a part. It was an easy step to mean to feign, to pretend, to wear a mask, to act the hypocrite, to play a part. The great late Greek scholar A.T. Robertson suggests it is one of the hardest words to come from the lips of Jesus and it fell on those who were the religious leaders of the Jews (Scribes and Pharisees).
It is a terrible sin to “feign love.” That is to say, what could be more evil than to pretend that you love a person when deep down you really hate them? An example of this would be to tell a person (or others) that you love them and then undermine them behind their back. What should be done? Treat the person with real love; the kind of love you want for yourself and your close family and friends. In other words, if you wouldn’t do it to your own loved ones, don’t do it to anyone else. Let love be genuine.
Love Good and Hate Evil
Leads to our second thought, Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. “A healthy vehemence against evil and resolute clinging to good is essential to the noblest forms of Christian love.” (Alexander Maclaren) Love has a tendency to weaken the condemnation of wrong. This is especially true when our loved ones do evil. However, evil is to be loathed, and good to be clung to no matter who we find them in.
We come to our last point, love one another with brotherly affection. This passage is added as a matter of course. There is nothing new here. In fact, when writing to the Thessalonians Paul wrote, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9 NKJV) This can only mean that if we are devoid of brotherly love we have a very serious spiritual problem. They are resisting the Holy Spirit who endeavors to express His love through us.
The NKJV gives a better sense of the Greek text. We read, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.” (Romans 12:10 NKJV) The word translated as kindly affectionate is philostorgoi and is a compound of philo and storgos. These are two Greek words for love made into one. What is Paul saying? “’Love the brethren in the faith as though they were brethren in blood’ (Farrar). The RSV renders the text, ‘be tenderly affectioned’; but the A.V., in the word kindly gives the real sense, since kind is originally kinned; and kindly affectioned is having the affection of kindred.” (Vincent)