August 16, 2021
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good
Romans 12 is full of short phrases like the three we see here in verse 9. We could spend a significant amount of time on any one of these dozens and dozens of phrases – but today, let’s start with this one:
Love must be sincere.
In 2007, the Barna Group did a research project where they asked non-Christian people why they rejected Christianity. One of the top three reasons given? A lack of sincerity. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed viewed Christians as hypocritical! In Jesus’s day, “hypokrites” were Greek stage actors, usually performing behind a mask. So when Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites, he was accusing them of hiding behind a mask of righteousness while being something and someone completely different underneath.
Does it worry you to see us falling into the same trap as the religious leaders of Jesus’s time? When I read the stories of the New Testament, I don’t like to think of myself as the Pharisee in the story. I like to think of myself as a follower, a disciple, or on my best days, a reflection of Jesus. But, sadly, that’s not how others see us. If they were to read the account of Jesus’s life – they would put us in the role of the ultra-religious hypocrites. Ouch.
So Paul’s command to be sincere is an incredibly timely reminder. If we want to see God’s Kingdom realized in us and around us, we must become a more authentic presence in the world. If you’d like to accept that challenge, here are two ways you can practice sincerity this week.
1. Search your motives. Many of us have become so practiced in our mask wearing, we don’t stop to think who we are underneath our actions. What drives you to succeed, to fear, to withdraw, care, or avoid? Ask yourself why. Why do I feel this way? Why did I respond like that? Why did I make that choice? Look for places where your motives and your actions are misaligned. Bringing those two things into alignment is a critical step towards authenticity.
- Be vulnerable. Many of us wear masks of competence, confidence, cheerfulness or downright bravado. But the “fake it till you make it” approach can have the unintended consequence of hypocrisy. For many of us, it’s because our mask is way more obvious than we’d like to admit. People know if your confidence is hiding insecurity. They can tell if your cheerfulness is actually armor. I’m not telling you to spill your guts to everyone who crosses your path—but be honest about your struggles when asked.
You will undoubtedly have choices this week where you can choose to hide the truth of your opinions, feelings, fears, and desires. My prayer is that you take a risk to be honest with yourself, and then honest with others. Consider it an act of obedience to God’s command here in Romans 12.