Romans 12:9a. Let love [agape] be genuine.
The life of Christ in us will always look like love. He is love. All he does is love. Genuine wholehearted love.
How much of your love for others is a mask? How much of it fails to be genuine? Do you find it difficult to love certain people? Even Christians? Especially Christians? Paul here, by the Spirit, is commanding genuine love, but how is this possible? Where does the power for this kind of love come from?
Paul assumes that genuine love is possible for us. How? Because every Christian has received genuine love. God’s divine covenant love – his agape.
Romans 5:5-8. God’s love [agape] has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. — 8 but God shows his love [agape] for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God’s genuine love has been poured into us. It changes us from the inside out. His love is not pretend, pretentious, or hypocritical. God really, really loves us. But how do we know God loves us? Is it because of all of his “blessings?” The job promotion? The cured illness? The nice weather today? The new girlfriend or boyfriend? These are all nice things, but they are not the proof of God’s love. If the proof of God’s love were tied to these earthly blessings then all the hard things in this life (the job loss, the sickness, the break up, the rainy days) would be proof that God has stopped loving us.
No, the proof of God’s love is that Christ died for us. Period. The cross is the final apologetic of God’s love. He died for us while we were still sinners raging against him (Romans 5:8). Eliminate the cross and we actually have nothing that would really prove the everlasting love by God for us without manipulation or need of reciprocation. He is for us. He is never against us. Never.
Believing this is the great battle of the heart and mind. This IS mind renewal. Being convinced of God’s endless, eternal, unchanging, never wavering love for me. It is the source of all power in the Christian life. It generates all faith and hope. And of course, as we see here in Romans 12, it generates our love for others (even our enemies).
Our genuine love for others will always begin with trusting God’s genuine love for us. This is the great truth of this verse: the agape love that is unique to God is now IN us and can flow FROM us. It must flow from the Spirit of Christ in us. Any other source of love will fall short and fail in its genuineness.
House Sitter: a case study in pretend love, or genuine love (I forget how it ends).
Real genuine agape love will always look like the cross. Like sacrifice. It will always seek the good of the others person above the self. All true love will share this divine character.
But at the same time this genuine agape love can manifest itself in many unique and diverse ways according to the gifting that God has given to us by his grace (Romans 12:6-8). Love thrives in freedom. The way I love genuinely may not look exactly like how my wife loves genuinely. Or how you love genuinely. But it will always look like self-sacrifice.
Counterfeit love takes over when we try to love from a source other than God’s great love for us. It is when we “try to love better” that we will fail to love better. It is when we feel unloved that our love will smother rather than empower. It is when we fail to see our need for love that we will isolate and resist love. It is when we try to earn love that we will manipulate in order to keep the love of others.
But when we actively rest in God’s love and receive his grace we will find ourselves naturally loving with a genuine unconditional love that flows from the freedom that God’s love for us has produced in us and through us.
1 John 4:7-8. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
“To live is Christ” is to love genuinely. How do we do it? By being loved. By knowing God and his love. Do you want to love better? Start by letting yourself be genuinely loved. Because you are. The cross says so. Then love Jesus more than anything else in this world. Now God’s love will pour out of you toward Jesus and toward all that he loves, which is everyone.