The remainder of this chapter is a list of practical commands which Paul gives to us. Keep in mind that all this is under the heading of “In view of God’s mercy. . .” What he’s done for us is supposed to elicit certain types of attitudes and behavior, and this is where he’s getting into specifics.
When it comes to our relationships with other believers, the key word is “love.” I’m sure I’ve griped about this before, but please indulge me for a moment: The word “love,” along with “peace,” is one of the most misused words of our time. We see it mainly as an emotion that happens to us. No, it’s a choice that we make to ensure the welfare of the beloved, often at great personal risk and sacrifice to ourselves.
The word Paul uses to describe the love we’re supposed to have for each other is anupokritos. It’s kind of hard to spot it in there, but if you look, you can see the word from which we get “hypocrisy,” and the “a-” in front of it negates it, which is why some translations render it as “without hypocrisy.” Do you remember the story behind that word? It literally means “before the face,” or a mask. When Greeks put on plays, they regularly had one actor playing several parts, and they’d put on or hold up a mask to designate that they were playing a different character. So hypocrisy is putting on a mask in order to fool others.
Out love must not be like that. We might say “I love you, brother,” but do we mean it? Are we willing to sacrifice for them? Are we quick to forgive and slow to anger when they provoke us? Do we try to look after their long-term interests? How do we speak about them when they’re not present?
And connected to this love for others is a call for discernment. We have to distinguish good from evil. Specifically he tells us we need to cling to what’s good and hate what’s evil. You can't love without hating. If you love someone, then you hate that which might harm them, or is harming them. An oncologist cares for his patients and loathes cancer in equal measure. That means you hate their sin and love them. That means you love them enough to steer them back towards the Lord when they’re veering off the path. And when you see something that’s good in their lives, you need to “cling to” it. Point it out. Encourage them with it.
Verse 10 tells us to be “devoted to one another in love.” The word he uses is one you’ve heard before: Philadelphia, which is why some translations put “brotherly love” here. Yes, that’s why they call Philadelphia “the city of brotherly love.” We’re siblings in Christ with one Father, and our actions towards each other need to demonstrate that. It’s not based on their lovability. It’s not based on how well they treat you. It’s all based on the fact that they’re your sibling in Christ.
And finally he says that we’re to “honor one another above yourselves.” The people of the world are constantly trying to push each other out of the spotlight so they can occupy it themselves. As our Lord said, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” We need to first and foremost give credit and glory and honor to our Savior God, but after that, we need to be careful to put each other before ourselves. Honor others first. Put their needs first.
As a teacher of mine once put it, this ain’t rocket surgery or brain science.
Father, when I tell a sibling “I love you,” is it sincere? Does it come from the heart? Help me to love them from your heart, please love them through me.