I was reading the Bible today.
I’m not one of those Christian girls that has always awoken early in the morning to dutifully fulfill my “daily devotions.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love scripture. And, recently I’ve been super drawn to spending time alone with it. Honestly, I’ve become overtaken by a desire to spend time with Jesus. Reading, writing, listening to the voice of God present in my life. It’s been a fun adventure to see what spending specific time in growth will do to augment my life and direct my day.
So today, in my not-so-daily quiet time, I was reading in Romans, chapter 12. If you aren’t so familiar with the Bible, a lot of it is made up of letters from early church leaders to the early churches. Romans is a letter from one of those leaders named Paul to the church in . . . wait for it . . . Rome. (not so surprised on that one, huh?)
Anyway, here’s what I was reading:
Verse 9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
What an impactful statement, “love must be sincere.” I’m one to hope that love, in its very nature, IS sincere.
But, I don’t think that is always the case. Just like most of the good things in our world, when people get their hands on it, it can go sour, fast.
I’ve had plenty of times in my life in which I was the recipient of insincere love. Short-term dating relationships, strings-attached commitments, judgmental “care.”
I’ve been the recipient. I’ve also been the one that offers it. Insincerity is just another manifestation of the brokenness we live in and with every day.
That verse impacted me this morning. Something else pissed me off.
I have an NIV study Bible. I got it as a gift when I was in high school from my pastor-dad. I like to read the study notes because they often give historical references or direct to other parts of the Bible that share the same story.
Here is what it says about the word “love” in Romans, chapter 12, verse 9:
Love. Believers’ love for fellow Christians and perhaps also for other people.
AND PERHAPS ALSO FOR OTHER PEOPLE?
I’m pretty sure I understand context. I get that Paul was writing to a church – a group of people that banded together in a world that, often brutally, persecuted them. I get that there is a chance that Paul WAS referring to love between believers.
I also know that the commentator most likely did not intend to make a comment that would piss me off or really mean to come off exclusive . . .
I do not believe that there is any chance that Paul meant his comment about sincere love to EXCLUDE “other people.”
Now, I didn’t go to Bible college. I’m not certain what the greek wording for this phrase is, but I am sure that even if Paul’s intention was to encourage the love of the family of believers in Rome, he would have never expected it to be a perhaps that love should extend beyond that family. TO GROW THAT FAMILY.
Choosing to love sincerely does not have to be and SHOULD NOT BE limited to people who believe as I do.
I don’t want to be a part of a movement of people in which “other” is excluded from the value of love. I don’t want to be a part of a movement of people that bands together against the “other”.
Fortunately, that is not the type of movement to which I belong.
My Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself.
My Jesus said to go into all the world to make disciples.
My Jesus chose the ones that had been passed over.
My Jesus did not come to condemn.
My Jesus CONQUERED DEATH.
My Jesus offers new life – EVERY DAY – TO EVERYONE.
And, I’m pretty sure he gets to decide who his people should love sincerely.
So, Mr. NIV Study Bible Commentator man (or woman, I don’t mean to assume), you have disappointed me. I know you didn’t mean to, but would you be nicer next time you write commentary on my Bible?
Love is ALWAYS for the other.
That is why my Jesus came. Because I was once “other” and in Him I belong.