Saint Paul says, "Let love be without hypocrisy." Pure love is a rare thing on earth. Not that love in itself is impure, but too often it is mere pretense. People harbor hatred while pretending to love, or are guilty of similar gross hypocrisies. They fall far short of the spirit of this teaching.
Paul is talking about those whose conscience has been set free by Christ, and who conduct themselves as true Christians. Yet many of us are careless about our works, not realizing that we neglect our neighbors and fail to assist the needy and rebuke the wicked; generally negligent, bringing forth little or no fruits of faith; among whom the true Word of God is choked, like a seed among thorns.
The Spirit make us more diligent in our works.
A feature of true love is to "abhor that which is evil." While to abhor evil is one of the chief principles of love, it is not common. The principle is too often lost sight of through hypocrisy and false love. We ignore, wink at, even make light of and are undisturbed by the evil deeds of our neighbor. We are unwilling to incur his displeasure by showing anger and offering rebuke for his wickedness, or by withdrawing from his company. By such weakness on our part we merely put on an appearance of love. Paul requires not only a secret abhorrence of evil, but an open manifestation of it in word and deed. True love is not prejudiced by the closeness of the friend, nor by the strangeness of an enemy. Love hates evil, and speaks against it or flees from it, whether in father or mother, brother or sister, or any other.
Of course, this is hard to do since corrupt nature loves itself and does not abhor its own evil; rather, it covers up and adorns it. Anger is called enthusiasm; greed is called prudence; and deception, wisdom.
A second feature of real, true love is that it cleaves to things that are good, even if they are found in the worst enemy. Love is no respecter of persons. It is not intimidated by the possible danger its expression might incur. But false love will dare, even for the sake of honor, profit or advantage, to forsake the good in its friend, particularly when danger threatens or persecution arises. Much less, then, will he whose love is false cleave to the good in an enemy and stand by and maintain it. If it required opposing his own interests, he would not support his enemy's deed, however good.
Around us, the world is false and full of infidelity, and many words are beautiful but empty. Even the love of our corrupt human nature is false and hypocritical. Where the Spirit of God does not dwell, there is no real, pure love at all. Who cleaves to the good, even though it be in an enemy? Who hates the evil, even though in a friend? Test men by these two principles in their dealing and giving, reproving and teaching, tolerating and suffering, and their hypocrisy will be readily apparent.
Paul also says, "In love of the brethren be tenderly affectionate one to another." Christians exhibit perfect love when, in addition to the love they manifest toward all men, they are united by a bond of Christian affection. Christians are not simply to manifest a spirit of mutual love, but they are to conduct themselves toward one another in a tender, parental and brotherly way. Such love Christ has shown, and still shows, toward us. He sustains us - frail, corrupt, sinful beings that we are. We are so imperfect that we often seem to not be Christians at all. But the love of Christ makes us His, regardless of our imperfections.
God wants to see us, "In honor preferring one another." Christ's love and friendship for ourselves should lead us to esteem one another as precious. We should be dear to one another. We may not reject any because of his imperfections. We must remember that the Lord dwells in the weak vessel also, and honors him with His presence. If Christ regards him worthy of kindness and affection, we should bow before that weak one, honoring him as the living temple of our Lord, the seat of His presence. What matters to us the insignificance of the seat the Lord chooses? If it is not too humble to be honored with His presence, why should we His servants not honor it?
We should do this "in diligence, not slothful". "Diligence" here implies every form of righteous work and business that occupies us. Paul requires us to be diligent, skillful and active. Some people readily and zealously engage in a good work, such as praying, reading, fasting, giving, serving, disciplining the body. But after two or three attempts they become lazy and fail to accomplish the undertaking. Such people become unstable and weak.
On the contrary, we should be "fervent in spirit". A weak disposition becomes faint and weak, and voluntarily yields when opposition and persecution must be encountered. The fervor that does not persevere in spiritual matters is carnal. Spiritual fervor is the nature of spirit not to know weariness. Particularly it gains in fervor through persecution and opposition. So it perseveres, even though the gates of hell oppose.
Next, we are to be “Serving the Lord." This means to let all our acts be done as unto the Lord, not seeking our own honor, and not neglecting our duty for fear of men. For we are servants of the God of Heaven.
Also we should be "Rejoicing in hope." The ungodly rejoice when satisfied with wealth, honor and ease, but are filled with gloom at any little change. They rejoice when they should grieve, and grieve when they should rejoice. But Christians are capable of rejoicing, not in ease and temporal advantage, but in God. They rejoice most when their worldly condition is worst. The farther earthly advantages are removed, the nearer is God with his eternal blessings.
Especially we should be "Patient in tribulation." We are taught that Christians must endure crosses and evil days. Hence the Gospel arms us with divine armor. That is, it teaches us, not how to avoid earthly ills and enjoy peace, but how to endure these ills. We conquer them, not by opposing them, but patiently enduring them until they wear themselves out upon us, and lose their power; as ocean waves, dashing against the shore, recede and vanish of their own accord. Not yielding, but perseverance, shall win here.
Paul particularly specifies that we should "Continue steadfastly in prayer." We are not to give up our prayers, even though we do not immediately receive what we ask. The chief thing in prayer is faith. Faith relies on God's promise to hear its petition. It may not receive at once what it is confident of receiving; but it waits, even though for a time there may be indications of failure.
We should also “distribute to the necessities of the saints." This means to the saints on earth - us Christians. He calls us saints out of respect to the Word of God and His grace, which, in faith, renders them holy.
It would be a great shame, a blasphemy, for a Christian to deny that he is holy. It would be equivalent to denying the holiness of the blood of Christ, of the Word, the Spirit, God, and His grace. All these God has applied to or conferred upon the Christian to render him holy.
By the words, "the necessities of the saints" we are taught and moved to do as much for Christians as we might do if a saint of heaven were here. We should regard such service as precious, for so it is. He commends to us those saints who are in want; who are forsaken, hungry, naked, imprisoned, half-dead, regarded by the world as ungodly evil-doers deserving of every form of misfortune; who, unable to help themselves, need assistance. It is the poor Christians of whom Christ say on the last day, "Inasmuch as you did it unto one of these My brethren, even these least, you did it unto Me."
Finally, we are to be "given to hospitality". This treatment we give in order to meet the "necessities of the saints". Not only in word are we to remember them, but in deed, extending hospitality as their necessities demand. "Hospitality" stands for every form of physical aid when occasion calls for it: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked. In the early days of the Gospel, the apostles and disciples did not sit in palaces. Like pilgrims, they went about the country, having no house nor home, no kitchen nor cellar, no particular abiding-place. It was necessary that everywhere hospitality be extended to the saints, and service rendered them, that the Gospel might be preached. This was as essential as giving assistance in their distresses and sufferings.
God’s Spirit help us do these things, for the sake of Christ. Amen.
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