Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
This describes love among Christians. It consists of six things. First, he says, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” He is talking about people. Hate what is evil in people, but don’t reject the person because of the evil. God loves that person. He or she is made in the image of God. True love learns to hate evil but not to reject the good. Hypocritical love, love that pretends to be Christian, does the opposite.
Second, love remembers that relationship is the ground of concern, and not friendship. That is why Paul says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” This doesn’t refer to just anyone that is in need; it specifies your brother or sister. The basis of concern for one another is not that we know each other well or enjoy one another, it is that we are related to one another. If we are Christians, we know that we already have a tie that ought to evoke care for one another. They are our brother, our sister and so we treat them warmly and with acceptance.
Third, Paul says that true love regards others as more deserving than yourself: “Honor one another above yourselves.” I like the J.B Philips translation here. He says, “Be willing to let other men have the credit.” If you really don’t care who gets the credit, then you can just enjoy yourself and do all kinds of good deeds. Just be glad that it is done, and don’t worry about who gets the credit. Our flesh doesn’t like that. It is very eager to be recognized, but the Word tells us that real love will not act that way.
Fourth, real love retains enthusiasm despite setbacks: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” One of the most noticeable marks of a Christian walking in the Spirit is that he retains enthusiasm, always rejoicing in hope. He never lets his spiritual zeal flag or sag, but maintains it. The Lord cannot put up with lukewarmness (Revelation 3:16). It is nauseating. He will spew you out of his mouth if you are indifferent, neither hot nor cold.
Fifth, true love rejoices in hope: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” You can rejoice in hope because you are patient in affliction, and you are patient in affliction because you have been faithful in prayer. So, when trials come, the thing to do is to begin with prayer. If you are faithful in prayer, you will be able to be patient in affliction. You will hang in there, waiting until God works it out, not getting impatient and angry and resentful, but quietly waiting for God to accomplish what he had in mind in this whole trial. That will make you rejoice in hope — because you know that God has a thousand and one different ways of working things out.
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Then, six, true love responds to needs. “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” In these days when we have so much social help available — unemployment insurance, Social Security, welfare, Medicare, etc. — we tend to forget that there are still human needs and that we have a responsibility to meet them. We need to be reminded that people are still hurting and that it is a direct responsibility of Christians to care for one another’s needs.
Lord, thank you for how you have loved me, and I ask that you teach me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way.
Six aspects of our love for one another define it as godly and sincere, as opposed to pretense and hypocrisy. To whom shall we look for our example, motivation and enabling grace for expressing authentic love?