What does it mean to love without hypocrisy? My mind goes pretty quickly to the golden rule. We cannot expect others to love us in a way that we are not willing to love. We also cannot describe or define love as Jesus does but then not love others that way. Real love is not fake. Love includes mutual devotion with a desire to honor others over self. Put others first. We should be excited when we serve Jesus, not begrudging. This is describing how the local gathering as well as the Church should look. I think we are starting to get back to that. For too long we have been more about what we dislike and disagree with than what we enjoy. Many have become curmudgeons. This passage does not seem to be describing a curmudgeon.
I see the Spirit working on this in me. Last night Judith and I read the 6th chapter of Forgotten God which reminded us to constantly focus on the Spirit in every way. We prayed to that end. Today I have experienced that a little bit. I started to get frustrated with another driver on the road and the Spirit convicted me. I got annoyed at lunch when a woman got in front of me in line for a refill and the Spirit convicted me. I can be pretty selfish. I think I am sensing the Spirit’s leading more and more. Sometimes I still ignore. Sometimes it is a question of knowing whether it is truly from the Spirit. Praise God for conviction and direction!
Back to the text…Rejoice, pray persistently, give, pursue hospitality. Don’t just be hospitable when the opportunity comes up. Go looking for the opportunity. Return blessing for curses. That’s hard, but revenge belongs to the Lord. Is there anything someone can do to me than is worse than what I have done to Jesus? Is there any more I can suffer than what He did? His Spirit is in me, so I should be able to react like Him.
Be in harmony. This is tough in a church, too. We want our own way and think we can justify it biblically, so we fight. Churches should never split. Multiplying is wonderful. Splitting always reflects sin in some way or another. It will often have to do with verse 16.
If I am honest, sometimes my initial reaction to the lowly is not humility. I am more likely to fear germs with a homeless person and worry about the handshake…but I do It anyway by the Spirit. I have loved verse 18 for a long time and really have tried to live by that. It is hard to be at peace with all people. Some refuse it. It is worth the pursuit, though. What if we all lived that way? Churches would be stronger. Relationships would be healthier. I think there would be more Christians. I still let my pride get in the way of making peace. Seeking comfort can be an issue there, too. Repaying evil with good is mentioned in this list four times or more and expounded on the last time with Old Testament quotes. Truly living according to this passage would spark another great awakening.
“Abhor evil, cling to what is good.” There is no room given for the gray, no middle ground.