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.Romans 12:9-13 (ESV)
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Our twins are in a phase of life where they both enjoy cuddling with stuffed animals, especially when they are either tired or feeling uneasy. For example, an animal friend is always near during nighttime storms or in preparation for doctor’s visits. One bear, which has been a recent favorite, is about ten inches tall and holds a stuffed heart with “love” embroidered into it. Therefore, it has been given the name of “lovey bear.”
Of course, as adults, we know that stuffed fabric may be very useful in helping young children feel safe, but it does not produce genuine love. Interestingly though, love, within our culture, is often associated with a “warm fuzzy.” Now there is nothing wrong with occasional perceiving love as strong, tender emotions which make us feel safe. After all, love can include such feelings, especially among family.
However, as Christians, we must be careful to recognize that God’s Word describes love as a decisive choice rather than a spontaneous emotion. Remember the greatest commandment? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind”
). Even if we don’t “feel” like loving God, we must love him, sincerely.
So, if love supersedes emotions, how can we better understand it?
Romans 12, verses 9 and 10, gives us some good direction for Biblical love.
First, love must be sincere. In other words, the external actions must mirror the attitude of the heart and mind.
Second, love includes a standard which is consistent with God’s heart. It clings to what God considers to be good and despises what God despises.
Third, it involves cherishing and honoring. Of course, love does include affection, but it also must include external actions which treat others as valuable.
In other words, love is a sincere desire to cherish another in a way which displays God’s heart. Jesus modeled this perfectly.
Too often, those apart from Christ cling to that which makes them “feel” the best. But when life gets really hard, they quickly trade one fading love for another. Or they abandon love completely and cuddle up with anger, isolation and bitterness.
Here is where our opportunity lies, especially during a pandemic. Only Christians know what genuine love is. Because of what Jesus did for us, and His indwelling Holy Spirit, we must love our neighbors, strangers, rivals and enemies. An aching world is eager to know a love which sets aside arrogance, envy and resentment and willingly chooses patience, kindness and faithfulness (see 1 Cor 13:4-8
). When we love like this, genuine love becomes manifest and Jesus is exalted. Lord, as people grow impatient and angry and needs increase, help us to love as you have loved us. Give us courage, through Jesus, Amen!