When Paul wrote his letter “to those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (1), he included this little verse. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (2) Sounds simple, right? Let’s take a look. 🧐
Let love be genuine. What does that look like? Here is what I discovered when I compared multiple translations of the verse. Genuine love is love with no hypocrisy, without deceit, without pretending, love that is not merely an outward show, one that is unfeigned, completely sincere and without dissimulation, love that stems from the center of who you are and not faked but real love that is honest and true and perfectly sincere. That’s all. 😬 So . . . how’s that going for you? 😏
The problem with this directive is that the instructions imply that we are to love everyone this way—not just the people we are drawn to love. And just so we are clear, let me define a couple of these descriptors with the help of my friend Merriam Webster. Feigned love would be artificial, not natural or real and never spontaneous. And dissimulation is the practice of misleading others through lies or trickery. 😮
So here’s a good measuring rod for you: which definition jumps out at you? And who are you thinking about as you ponder it? Sorry. 😕 I don’t mean to be so personal but scripture pricks us where we need pricking. The fact is there are people in our world that rub us the wrong way, and we find it hard to love them genuinely. Instead, we “fake” it. We say things to them we do not mean at all. As our mouths are verbalizing one thing, we are thinking something entirely differently and probably rolling our eyes secretly. 🙄 And that, my friends, is not love. It is the opposite of love. Wait. What? 😦 Does that mean when our love is not genuine it is actually hate? Not exactly. We simply need to understand that we must love people even though we dislike them. Paul is not telling us to like everyone. He is instructing us to let love override our personal feelings for them.
We will not like everyone, including dedicated and faithful believers. And by the way, not everyone likes us either! 😉 So how do we love people we do not like? I think we have to refer to the greatest thing ever written about love: 1 Corinthians 13. Here’s the meat of it: “Love is patient and kind.” (3) That’s it. The rest is details. Patience and kindness are the essentials of love. Especially patience. And kindness. 😏
The pressure is off. We are not expected to like everyone. And we are never to fake our love towards others. But it is imperative that we are kind to everyone. That we are patient with everyone. It is the most loving thing we can do.
So, here is your challenge for the week: Really love others—especially those you do not like. We’ll save the other parts of Paul’s simple little verse for next week. 😏
(1) Romans 1:7 (2) Romans 12:9 (3) 1 Corinthians 13:4