Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Not-Fake Love

“Let love be genuine.”

Familiar verses describe the positive qualities of Christian love — that it is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, is full of hope, and so on. Other qualities of Christian love are expressed by the New Testament writers as the absence of something bad — not arrogant, not rude, not selfishly insistent, not resentful.

Genuineness is a positive quality, but the word underlying Romans 12:9 is actually one of these Greek negations. We might translate it “not-fake”. Reflecting this, other translations go with “unfeigned”, “without hypocrisy” and “without dissimulation”, the last of which may be a little too archaic to be much use.

It reminds us that loving in truth demands we avoid insincerity.

Insincerity in Action

Insincerity manifests in many different ways, like when you become unusually charitable and good-natured to others whenever someone you want to impress is watching. It says, “We really must get together soon,” then never follows up. It tells the planning committee “I’ll get right on that,” but doesn’t diarize it. It says, “Oh, that new hairdo looks so nice on you” when it ... well ... doesn’t. It says, “So good to see you,” to the visiting couple, then spots a friend across the room and runs off at first opportunity. It says, “Be warmed and well fed.”

Okay, you know that one.

But we can mislead ourselves if we begin to think being not-fake requires feeling something deeper and more profound than we are currently feeling, as if authenticity requires that I only act when my emotions drive me to it. If this were the case, we would only love when we “felt led” or were randomly overwhelmed with benevolent good cheer; for me, probably as often as Venus aligns with Pluto.

One Person, Two Natures

The Christian does not have one nature; he has two. He is either being led by the flesh or by the Spirit at any given time, and responding to the direction given by the Holy Spirit in his word may or may not be accompanied by fuzzy feelings. After all, feelings produce actions, but so does the will; and the Spirit’s fruit is a will under my control. A will that responds to the Spirit of God by performing a loving act is considerably more authentic than a well of bubbling sentiment that hasn’t got around to it yet.

Fake love makes promises and never delivers. Not-fake love delivers even when it doesn’t feel like it.

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