Do You Really Mean It?

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. -Paul in his letter to the church in Rome

There’s a popular phrase “Fake it until you make it” that has been around for awhile. It implies that we should act like we are confident and successful until we can actually see it happen in reality. Somehow our attitude affects what can manifest into reality and while I’m not going to get into the finer points of that argument, it does seem to be popular.

We are, no doubt, are very self- centered culture these days. We want to appear as if we are successful and have it all together. We are only our “real” selves when we are with those closest to us, most likely our closest friends and our families. To the rest of the world, we put forth the image of what we want them to see. Our selfie shots and posts on social media are carefully filtered and selected to help us appear to be perfect. We know, or at least would should realize, that these will be around for awhile for everyone to see so we have to be selective.

Often, we use these platforms to feed our own longing for approval and the need to be right. And sometimes our need for love. We all enjoy the nice comments from social media and the little heart emojies. It makes us feel loved, appreciated and accepted.

But when we take the filters away. Who are we really? Do we know how to be real? Can we let others see our true selves? Can we love others authentically? Or do we attempt to show love towards others from our filtered selves? Are we fakes?

In the southern US where I live, there is a saying that conveys falsehood, yet to the visitor, might sound very nice. “Bless your heart” might sound nice, but it really translates to “What are you thinking? Are you crazy?” There are a few other translations I could add, but they wouldn’t be appropriate in this forum, so I’ll leave it to your own imagination. So, it is a way to say something nice, without really meaning it. It is not blessing anyone’s heart. It is not a compliment.

Last week, in the blog What Christians Get Wrong, I wrote about the tendency of faith people to argue their faith with those who do not share the same beliefs. It was one of many ideas that Christians sometimes get “wrong”. Today I would add insincerity.

The apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament. His letters to the fledgling churches offered so much advice to those Jesus followers that we still read and study his words. If you have the time, consider reading the entire letter Paul wrote to the Romans, that is the early church in Rome, not the government. You’ll find that it is just as applicable today as it was in the first century. Chapter 12 offers quite a list for believers on how they should act towards each other and to those outside their church group.

Commentators, who study this letter in its original language- Greek, often find verse 9 an important shift in the writing style. They suggest it is a heading for a list to follow. Like, “Here is what real, true love should look like; list to follow” It also implied that it was a close love, like a family kind of love. A sincere, be yourself, no one to impress here, kind of love. Not the fake it ’til you make it, or bless your heart. Just real. Authentic. Not for any personal approval or to fill our own empty love tank.

I think, that sometimes Christians like to skip over the passage and get to the hate what is evil part, to justify their judgmental attitudes towards others. Paul is really speaking to the individual as a member of the larger body of believers there. Not hating others, but more of a personal accountability. The imperative to cling to what was good, also implied this close, family connection. Love that is sincere hates the evil in the world, but holds on to the good. It does not hate people, but the evil that is present. If you continue reading the rest of the passage all the way to its end in verse 21, you can fully understand what Paul is trying to tell the Christians about sincere love and what it looks like. Words like harmony, humility, peace, sharing, rejoicing, mourning with others, joy, honor, patience,faithfulness, humbleness over being conceited, providing water to the thirsty, and doing good all appear as instructions on how to love authentically, sincerely.

Many might think of 1 Corinthians 13 as the “Love” chapter in the bible, but I think Romans 12 really gives us a real good idea of what sincere love should look like. I encourage you to read it, and let me know if you agree on this point. – God Bless you- Nancy