Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: What is the nature of Christian love? It looks out for what is best; it persists; and it is practical.


Romans 12:1-2 - the Christian mind is a transformed mind, not slipping easily into the same pattern as the world around us, but renewed by our relationship with our almighty and merciful God.

Romans 12:3-8 - how that principle works out in the way we think about ourselves: soberly, not too low and not high & mighty

Now, in Romans 12:9ff Paul talks about how the transformed mind will think about and treat other people. The principle is that of sincere love.

{At this point in giving the sermon I put on an elaborate, colourful mask}

The Language of Love

Paul uses an interesting word to describe the love that we are to have for one another – “sincere”. Another way of putting it is to say that we are not to be hypocrites with our love, being real and genuine, not play-acting.

Our word “hypocrite” comes from the word that the Greeks of Paul’s day used to describe actors on a stage. They would put on masks – usually a lot bigger and grander than the one I have on now – to hide their real identity so they could play their parts.

We are not to be like that! The love we show to others ought not be just playing a part, but really what we think and feel towards them. It is possible to pretend to love someone.

In the Bible think about Judas when he kissed Jesus – what hypocrisy was in that show of friendship!

In our lives today, think about people who use sweet talk to make someone think they are loved, but the real motive is to manipulate them into giving the other person something that they want. Or love that is given only so long as you play along with the other person, but as soon as you make your own decisions you are rejected and cut off from friendship.

{At this point I took off the mask}

So it’s off with the mask of the hypocrite and on with true Christian love.

The word Paul uses for love is also an interesting one – it is the Greek agape.

This is a word that talks about the highest quality of love there is, that of God towards His Son Jesus, and towards all of His people who are in Jesus. It is not the sort of fickle, sentimental, unreliable love that we know in this world, but it is love that is supremely shown in the self-sacrifice of God for our benefit; it is absolutely unconditional, reliable and unfailing.

John 3:16 – God so loved the world that He gave His Son

Romans 5:8 – God’s love is demonstrated in this that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

Romans 11:38 – there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord

The Character of Sincere Christian Love

Paul lists several features of anypokritos agape – sincere love. We don’t have enough time to go through them one by one, so I’ll try to distil them into the main ideas. We can see that this kind of love comes from a transformed mind that is not conforming to the pattern of the world, but comes from God Himself. As John says in his letter, we love because God first loved us.

1) Sincere love seeks what is spiritually best for the other person

It might seem strange for the first thing that is said about love is that it involves hating what is evil and clinging to what is good. But that is probably because the pattern of love that we have around us is one of making easy, selfish choices. Just as morality has been thrown out the window in making individual choices in this post-modern world of ours, so “love” has been downgraded to a relationship of convenience, rather than a relationship that reflects God’s righteousness.

Think about how easy it was for everyone to accept that girl Andy in Big Brother actively seeking sexual involvement with others in the house even though she is married. Apparently she and her husband agreed with having an “open” relationship. But, it is not acceptable as far as God is concerned that people in a relationship agree to certain courses of action if what they agree to is wrong; there IS right and wrong behaviour and true love - true friendship - acts on the basis of right and wrong.

I don’t mean that every situation will have an easy, black and white answer about what is the loving thing to do. Life can be a lot more complex than that! But the Christian should be very deliberate in the way they make their decisions, weighing up the moral and spiritual implications of different courses of action, not just following the way that other people choose or the easy patterns of the world around us.

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