George Burns said, "Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you've got it made." It's hard to tell the difference between sincerity and insincerity, isn't it? In Romans 12:9-21, Paul tells us that love must be 'sincere'. But what does that mean? Does it mean you just really, really mean it? That you feel it deeply from the bottom of your heart?
The word 'sincere' literally means 'without wax'. In pottery making, there's a practice of hiding cracks and flaws in cheap pottery with wax in order to make the piece appear worth more than it actually is. Products without wax were stamped with 'sine cera' on the bottom to show it had not been doctored.
In Romans 12, Paul tells us what sincere love looks like, the kind of love God has shown to us to rescue us from the wilderness of this world. Here's what it looks like:
1] It loves what is good (12:21). And how do we know what is good? God shows us. Scripture teaches us that in the latter days, it will be difficult to spot the difference between good and evil, so we need to pay close attention to what God tells us in the Bible so we can know the difference -- and do it. If we are possessed by God's love, we will want to do good. Insincere and unreliable love looks after self -- which has its dark effects on others. Sincere love gives and doesn't indulge self. The selfishness of others has never rescued me.
2] It loves those who need it from you (12:10, 13, 15-16). Later in chapter 13, Paul writes about the 'debt of love we owe' because of Jesus. We owe our families our sincere love. We owe the community of believers our love. We owe those who God has put into our lives our love. We are indebted to God for what He has done for us, and the payment on that debt is how we love others. It follows in the footsteps of Jesus and calls us into sacrificial, transformed living and loving. Love like you are indebted to God.
3] It loves well when you have not been loved well (12:14, 17-20). Check out the words of Jesus in Luke 6:27-36 (and read it slowly, pausing on the implications of each phrase). This is the hardest part of sincere love. We all have stories of not being treated well -- and Jesus is right there with us. And yet he is explicitly clear on how we are to treat those who hurt us. Hint: it's the same way we were treated when we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10).
Sincere love -- interestingly -- looks like how God loves us. And since God is love, He gets to define what it is: 1) It does the will of God (like Jesus), 2) it loves those who need it (like Jesus), and 3) it even loves the enemy (just like Jesus). Compare that with the fluffy, feely kind of love we tend to look for, and see for yourself what measures up in its sincerity.
Love what is good. Love those who need it from you. And love well even when you have not been loved well.
That's the kind of love that has saved my life. Watch what happens when we begin to love like this!