Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reflections on Romans Chapter 12 – Part 8

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor, 12: 9- 10.

Let love be without hypocrisy; could it be that this is the most difficult challenge in the Bible? Certainly it ranks somewhere near the top. If we understand that hypocrisy speaks of putting on a mask, of pretending to be something we aren’t, then who is not guilty of some measure of hypocrisy in some relationship?

What is required to have loving relationships devoid of hypocrisy? A commitment to Jesus Christ, a commitment to one another, the centrality of the Cross…and time…to name what first comes to my mind. What comes to your mind? What would you add to the list?

I would also add the scope of chapters 13 – 16 with their incarnational relational nature.

Hypocrisy is often a substitute for relationship; relationship with God and relationship with one another. Code words, jargon, behavior, routines can all be substitutes for relationship, short cuts for getting things done, timesavers so that we’re not slowed down by conversation, by listening, by getting to know one another.

I am not speaking of hypocrisy in the sense it is used in the Gospels of legalistic scribes and Pharisees; though that can be one element of this context – see Chapter 14 and the issues of eating, drinking, and holy days. No, I am not speaking of that overt hypocrisy, I am considering the subtle internal hypocrisies we are prone to engage it – the dance of hypocrisy that our society at large and our churches promote as religious and social conventions.

If my love is to be without hypocrisy then it requires me not only to know myself in the light of Christ; it also requires me to know my neighbor in the light of Christ, to be “other centered” rather than self-centered. And this, among other things, requires time, time that most of us are not willing to invest.

I have seen folks take Paul’s words about speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and not understand what either true truth or love means – for if true truth is Christ then we should speak as Christ, and if love is Christ then our words should be clothed with His love – being “right” is not the issue. That verse has been used in more harsh ways than I care to imagine.

Consider Ephesians 4:25; Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.  We are to have relationships without hypocrisy, truthful relationships, because we are members of one another. This is part of our bodies being living sacrifices, this is part of the renewing of our minds. But do we see this as such? Do we see that it is essential to learn to live in honest and loving relationships in the City of God, the City of light? And make no mistake, for most of us this is a learning process, it is a journey. Is it a journey on which we are willing to embark?

We have made it acceptable to wear masks; so much so that it is considered unacceptable to remove our masks. We carry a wardrobe of masks for almost every conceivable situation – how shall we ever learn to love without  hypocrisy?

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