Let love be genuine.
This verse has been rattling around a lot in my head lately. Over the last few years, I have been really challenged in my definition of what it means for love to be genuine.
See, I was raised in the polite Midwest, where kindness and being respectful to others are values we highly hold to, at least at face value. We would rather you walk away from an interaction with us feeling good, so you can know that you are loved and appreciated. It’s a culture of “Good morning,” “How are you?” and “Hope you are doing well.” Now that’s all well and good, except nobody really loves that way (me included). It becomes a face-value culture. And in a face-value culture, gossip, backbiting, lying, and some other real nasty stuff can take place. It’s a culture where everybody observes what’s going on around them, makes judgments about people, but determines it wouldn’t be kind to tell them what everyone is really thinking (and is already talking about).
So if the polite culture can be dangerous and falls short of genuine love, wouldn’t the alternative be the answer? The culture of “Just telling you how it is,” where no filter is placed between our sun-blazing truth and the victim of our insight. A place where we are always forefront with our judgment of a situation. This culture breeds insecurity, and is rarely interested in the object of its “love” and is more interested in spewing truth (or opinion at times).
And I think the definition of “genuine love” escapes us in both scenarios, because one lacks honesty and the other lacks grace. I am finding that “genuine love” has both. It really does genuinely care for the other person. But it also cares enough to be honest when something dangerous is going on. It confronts with the motivation of pointing that person back toward God and health. I think it pushes the polite to have real conversations (even confrontations), and it pushes the truth tellers to think about how they can communicate those truths in a way that is considerate and caring for the individual. Because the point in all of this is that the recipient of our love is encouraged to take steps toward Jesus and health in their life.
Genuine love isn’t easy. And genuine love will challenge all of us. But Christ is our example and our power to love this way. After all, He is the one who defined it for us.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory,
glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.