“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-12 NKJV)
“Let love be without hypocrisy.” (Romans 12:9 ASV)
Lately I’ve been reminded that spiritual maturity has a lot more to do with love than it does correct behavior or doctrine. It would be very hard for anyone to emphasize the importance and value of love any stronger than John did in the passage above. I think the main reason love is so crucial is simply that it is an aspect of the very nature of God and is an essential element of the Kingdom of God. In several places, scripture says love needs to be without hypocrisy. I’d like to look at what that means and why it’s so important.
Jesus often referred to the religious leaders of his day as “hypocrites.” The word hypocrite comes from the idea of someone assuming a role, like an actor in a play. The essence of hypocrisy is acting in a way which differs from how one truly is inwardly. Jesus told the religious leaders of the Jews that their hypocrisy was like a painted tomb – nice on the outside, but corrupt and repulsive inside. Hypocrisy often manifests as presenting oneself in a favorable way, but doing so from a selfish motive instead of naturally from the heart. Religion often makes hypocrites of people by using fear, excitement, or some other “carrot” to motivate people to do or not do certain things, while their heart and desires remain unchanged. Many of these changes don’t last, because once the emotion or other motive loses it’s power or appeal, the true inward state of the person begins to be expressed again.
Hypocrisy is so dangerous because it accompanies pride and prevents love. Genuine love actually cannot be hypocritical, because genuine love only comes as a naturally-produced fruit of the spirit of God within. This is why John wrote that “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Pride and hypocrisy feed off each-other because pride is essentially the stubborn adherence to ways and ideas which originate with man rather than the spirit of God. Pride will prevent one from recognizing and coming out of a hypocritical, religious state. Have you ever seen the sad sight of a religious person who acts like a robot who is reciting a script or being controlled by a program in their brain? Their actions and words are obviously artificial, and most who recognize this are put off by it, and too often put off by the God that is misrepresented.
Paul wrote that the entire fulfillment of the law is simply to love others as yourself.1 So if you want to be a law-follower, just do that and you’re set. The “catch” is that love is often much more costly, difficult and painful than merely following rules. In fact, I believe when Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves, treat others as we would be treated, and repay evil with blessing, he knew full well that to truly do so is humanly impossible. He knew that such love can only come by receiving and submitting to the Spirit of God as one’s controlling source of life. If this is true, then there’s no love and thus no real value in hypocritical “love” which originates in the selfish human soul and is acted out. Scripture says plainly that many believers are going to be shocked and mourn terribly when, despite doing many good and impressive works, even in Jesus’ name, they will be rejected and cast away because Jesus never knew them.2 I believe this will be, at least partly, because these works were hypocritical instead of being produced freely and in love from the life of Christ, the Spirit of God within.
The main thing I want to stress is that love cannot be hypocritically acted out or “forced.” A much better way is to ask and trust the Father to make you aware, more and more and more, of His presence within you, a new creation not of yourself, which is the same life that was in Christ. As you become more aware of and learn to live from and submit your own will/soul to that new creation within, praising God and communing with Him inwardly in a way deeper than words and receiving His unconditional love toward you, you’ll sense a love within you that appears without effort. This love will be of a quality you can’t achieve yourself and won’t be a manufactured effort, but divine fruit. You’ll actually be willing, even desire to suffer in order for another to benefit, even if they don’t deserve it. You and I can love this way only because our Father loved us first, while we were astray. His love is shown in that He has given us His Son as an atonement for sin and His spirit as a new life within.3 We now have the privilege of declaring and participating in the amazing love that the Father has shown. Amen!
- Galatians 5:14
- Matthew 7:21-23, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15
- 1 John 4:19, Romans 5:8-11, Romans 7:6, Galatians 2:20, 3:4