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Romans 12:9-13

This passage struck me this morning. 

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Romans 12:9-13 (ESV)

The NASB renders Romans 12:9 as "Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good."  (by the way: literal Greek here:" "The love not hypocrisy."  Based on my depth and breadth of Greek knowledge, I'd translate this as "Love without hypocrisy" for a Greek class.  I'd then read it from NASB when preaching and the first point would be: Love should be genuine.)

Now, I wanted to address this.  Love without hypocrisy.  What is hypocrisy?  We hear the word a lot, and the meaning has faded.  A brief venture into the Greek language shows that the word originated as a compound of "ὑπό" and "κρισις."  Now, that "κρισις" also come down to us as "crisis."  Initial meaning on the separate words are "under or beneath" and "decision," but remember that words evolve on their own.  Consider "butterfly" in English.  Whilst it does fly, it isn't made of butter, so knowing the meaning of "butter" doesn't help one understand.

A hypocrite was initially a term applied to actors in Greek dramas, that they had to hold their own selves under the character.  Then, however, an actor or two went into politics and other serious work.  They were mocked as being so good as an actor that they were even well pretending to be qualified for real work.  Thus, the word began a path to a negative connotation.  It then hits its Biblical-era meaning range: basically of a person who does one thing while meaning, saying, or believing in an opposite idea.  Hypocrisy is the action of a hypocrite.  Since those times, we see an expansion of the meaning beyond this, into any action that differs from a person's expressed words and opinions is called hypocrisy.  I don't think it's appropriate to read this meaning back to Biblical times.  This is likely why the ESV uses "genuine" to address this.

Love should be without hypocrisy.  This should be taken to mean that we do not profess or act out love when we, in our hearts, don't have any love.  This isn't to say we should only love when we feel like it, rather that we should choose to act out the love we claim to have.

Another thing to note is that we shouldn't equate hypocrisy with failure.  In other words, just because I fail to live up to what I define as important, that doesn't make me a hypocrite.  That makes me a sinner, but not a hypocrite.  If I never have any intention to live up to my expressed standards, that's hypocrisy.

Why does this matter?  Because we are often too quick to judge others and ourselves as hypocrites when our actions are inadequate.  And this judgmental habit feeds inaction, because no one wants to be a hypocrite!  Yet the death of our churches (not of The Church, but of many of our local branches) is so often found in that inaction.  Are there churches that fail for hypocrisy?  Yes, but many more I believe falter for inaction.

We've got to began to go ahead and act!  Even at the risk of acting but falling short.  Even at the risk of realizing we're not as amazing as we thought we were.  Let's get off the fence and act!

 

Doug

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