Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)
Another way to look at that is that the exercise of grace affects our character. The work of the grace of God in the life of the believer is to change that person into the image of Jesus Christ. For that to happen, our attitudes must change. Our character must be transformed, and the greatest evidence of this change is that we can now love, freely and fully. We can love by grace.
If you have the King James Version, it says, “Let love be without dissimulation.” The New American Standard says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” The New International Version says, “Love must be sincere.” J. B. Phillips translates it, “Let us have no imitation Christian love.” So what does all that mean? Well, according to what we just read, our love must be sincere. It must not be phony. It must be real and genuine, not put on or acted out. It is interesting that this word translated hypocrisy is the same word in Greek which referred to those who made their living on stage as actors. It meant, “to impersonate someone; to play a part; to simulate or to feign or to pretend.” What we are being told here is that followers of Jesus, we aren’t to simply act like we love someone, we should really love them! When the Spirit of God comes to live in your heart, you can’t help but be stimulated by love. When it comes to love, we cannot merely play the part. Our love will be genuine.
What Paul says next is interesting, especially in how it relates to love. He says, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Huh? Is this saying that true Christian love rejects sin but not persons? I believe so. All too often, Christians fall into either one of two extremes: either they end up rejecting the individual in their hatred of sin, or they end up condoning the sin because they do not want to reject the individual. We see this happen all the time when dealing with homosexuals. You see, it is possible to love anyone . . . w/o condoning their sin. It requires grace, but it is possible.
However, we cannot love the individual and end up condoning sin, or reject the individual because we hate sin. True love loves the individual while, at the same time, hating sin. Love without truth is compromise, and truth without love is legalism. We must have neither. What we need in the church of Jesus Christ today are people who love everyone with genuine love, just as they are. At the same time, we stand for truth and seek to help people to change by the grace of God. We can do that without being fuzzy. I read a story about a Mississippi State Senator in 1958 who addressed the Legislature:
You have asked me how I feel about whisky. All right, here is just how I stand on this question: “If when you say whisky, you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge; the bloody monster that defiles innocence, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacles of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation and despair, shame and helplessness and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it with all of my power.
But, if when you say whisky, you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the stuff that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes, if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentlemen’s step on a frosty morning; if you mean the drink that enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrows, if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirmed, to build highways, hospitals and schools, then certainly I am in favor of it. This is my stand. I will not retreat from it; I will not compromise.
You see, the exercise of grace affects our character. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to love one another without compromise.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome