“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9, NASB95)
The Pharisees, whom Jesus frequently addressed, knew the importance that God placed on love. The Pharisees were a powerful and popular group of men who were known for their rigorous attention to the Jewish Scriptures (Torah), even adding to it over time to evidence their adherence. In Matthew 22 we read of these men bringing in their best legal minds as they tried to trip Jesus up.
“But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:34–40, NASB95)
The Pharisees knew the Law of God and Moses, and they jumped through the hoops in their defense of it. But frequently we find them being challenged for the hardness of their hearts. In that sense, they were actors in that what they taught might have differed from how they thought. In verse 10, we read that we are to “Let love be without hypocrisy.” The word translated here hypocrisy has that meaning of one who is not sincere, who feigns to hold to one position while actually holding another.
A hypocrite is an actor, someone who is not genuine, who says and does things for attention, but in secret rejects that which he stood on a soap box to proclaim. We are not to speak about love in an empty way, but to be people who genuinely do love. We are to love God and worship Him in our response and we are to love others as evidenced by how we treat them and care for them. We are to be genuine in our love for God and our love for one another as God is genuine in His love for us. Knowing just how much God loved us and what His Son did for us, we are compelled to love in the same way.
In John 13:34-35 we read, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” People will get a picture of our Lord as they see how we treat one another.
As we continue we read in the second half of verse 9, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” Clearly a distinction is drawn between where we are to give our affections. Just as we are a new creation in Christ we are to cling to those things which are reflective of our new identity. We are to put off the old ways of thinking and doing, in favor of what God has declared good. And not are we just to put it off, we are to think about it as being just as bad as Scripture declares it to be.
Just as God has PUT OFF OUR JUDGMENT through MERCY and PUT ON US LIFE through GRACE, He has called us to live true to our new identity in Christ by PUTTING OFF EVIL and PUTTING ON GOOD.
In Galatians chapter 5 we have a lengthy discussion of the difference between those things that mark evil and those that mark good. In verses 16-18 we read, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” (Galatians 5:16–18, NASB95) Then in verse 24 we read, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” In between we have two lists—one of the flesh and the other resulting from the work of the Spirit in us. The second list starts off like this, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love….”
There is so much in our lives that we can so quickly respond to in negative ways from not listening carefully and responding way to quickly acting or reacting with purposeful acts of anger or retaliation. Scripture tells us to consider the priority of love which God has given us. Because of His great love for us Christ died for us, and because of our love for Him we are to do the same in our relations to others. This is not always easy to remember, and sometimes we might have to back up and admit our failings and out hurt of others even if what they themselves did was wrong. We are not seeking forgiveness for their wrongs, but for our actions and this is what love demands. But more than that love should cause us more and more to stop in the first place and consider our responses.
It is for that reason that we are told in Colossians 3:14, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:14, NASB95) Putting on love is necessary because it is not how we are inclined to do things apart from God. But it is something we are called to do nonetheless, and in so doing we are called to follow the example of our Lord with the enabling of the Spirit. After all, we do read in Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit (working in us) is love….
A simple reminder for us can be found in James 1:19 where we read, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” I know I could have done better with hearing today.