LOVE THAT IS SINCERE
Romans 12: 9-21
I know I’ve shared this with many of you, and some of our biblical scholars know this already…but during the first century pottery was absolutely essential has everyday life….you cooked with it, you carried water in it, you stored things in it…pottery was so prevalent in every family, and every location its one of the largest discoveries when archaeologist dig…pieces and portions of pottery are found in abundance.
Pottery merchants had a steady flow of customers…supply and demand was in their favor. The market place was as you’d imagine…a place of ruckus haggling…sellers and buyers arguing over prices, deals being made products begin exchanged…
There are a couple of words you might have heard….One was “Tetelestai”…it’s the word that means “Paid in full”, “Your bill is paid completely.”
But at the potters booth you might have seen, and heard the word…..”Sine Cera”, “without Wax”…dishonest merchants would try to hide the cracks in cheap or defective pottery with WAX…in order to pass it off as being worth more than it actually was…Quality products were often stamped or labeled “Sine Cera” to show they hadn’t been doctored. Somewhat like we label products today “100% pure”…or “All Natural”…Paul is telling us…love in this way…let your love be real, genuine…pure!
The Greek word translated “Sincere” is “Anupokritos”…the last part of that word is what we translate as “Hypocrite”…the Greek word literally means one who wears a mask”…like someone in a play or in the theater…the word in our text means “Without Hypocrisy”, “Paul is saying real believers should love without a mask…Our love should be real, not pretend…Our love should have no hidden agenda or motive.
BECAUSE WE ARE MUCH BETTER AT PRETENDING THAN ACTUALLY LOVING.
(v10) says “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves”
You know why we’re better at pretending than actually loving…? Real love takes time. Devotion can’t be accomplished with a handshake and a smile on Sunday…
Devotion and honor are strong words….In Acts 2 the earliest Christians “Devoted” themselves to “The apostles teaching, and to the fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Verse 44 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common…verse 45 says, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… (No way…on their hearts…No mask covering their hearts)
Almost all biblical scholars believe “ The first breaking of bread refers to communion, the Lord’s Supper” Acts 20:7 say, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. So, the earliest Christian…Devoted, committed themselves to “Learning what Jesus taught, creating a connection with other believers, remembering the Lord’s death until He comes back, and praying together…but on the heels of those essentials is a picture that goes beyond the walls…they ate together, laughed together, shared life together openly and joyfully…In a nutshell they had experienced salvation…forgiveness…rebirth…renewal…there was a sense of Aw…and God was doing miraculous things…Romans 12: 9-21 was being lived out in Jerusalem…and because of that…God added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Christianity wasn’t something they did on the weekend, or occasionally…their devotion to Christ and following him wasn’t a part of their lives…it was their lives….Love, purity, unselfishness, spiritual excitement, services, forgiveness, meekness, peace, sacrifice…The Holy Spirit is actively at work.
But be aware…Satan is the God of pretending….he is the God of the wax and the God of the mask…He loves to substitute lies for truth, pills for joy…a handshake and a smile for real connection…read….
They are united in focus and purpose…The apostles share their testimony’s about a resurrected Jesus…Much grace is upon them…(It’s all about Grace) Commitment to this cause brought extreme sacrifices…Joseph, “Barnabas” sold a field…brought what he made and surrendered it for the Apostles to use…Sincere, Sacrificial, unselfish…LOVE.
So Ananias and Sapphira, together…as a unit…sold a piece of property…. (Maybe they got a lot more than expected.”)…and they pretended before Peter, the other Apostles, the church, and before God…that they gave it all…”They didn’t just lie to me…they lied to God”
And the consequence is “Death”…for both…because they pretended to do something that wasn’t the truth, and they said it was, before God. “Why such severe consequences…consequences that caused “Great fear to siege the Church?’ Could it be that God was protecting the early church from wearing WAX or a mask? That his people aren’t about what appears to be real, but they are about what is real!!!
And for each of us who are born again, spirit filled, and lead followers of Jesus that should be a “Gilt check”. This happened after the resurrection…after the gift of the Holy Spirit, after Pentecost…in the midst of a spiritual revival bigger than anything the world has ever seen…The New Covenant of Grace has surpassed the Old Covenant of the Law…But pretending to God, lying to the Holy Spirit…had some immediate consequences…
Well, could it be that Jesus was protecting His church from the cancer that ate away at the Jews religion….Pretending to do or be something your not was practiced with expertise by the Pharisees…I personally think the best description was from Jesus in Matt. 23: 25,26.
“Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees’, you hypocrites: (People who wear a mask)! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish and then the outside also will be clean.”
Ananias and Sapphira, both with full knowledge pretended to be like Barnabas. Their lie, this cancer might have gone undiscovered, except the Holy spirit would not allow the inside of the cup to be hidden…nothing kills the spiritual growth of a person or a revered more quickly than this…In Ananias and Sapphire case, with the church of Jesus in its infancy…It cost them their lives…
It shouldn’t surprise us that Satan uses the same ploy today…its easier (well at least initially) to pretend…to deny self, take up your cross and follow Jesus…sincere love, His love in reality is much harder…hating what is evil and clinging to what is really good….is hard in a world that does the opposite…In a world where many of us are so busy doing our stuff…its tempting” to pretend…
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF THE MASK IS REMOVED?
“Man, that’s a good question!” But Paul answers it in Romans 13: 8-10,
Christ’s love is more than an emotion…It’s a faith-action…what I mean by that is…Many times I would rather wear the mask…many times I’d rather pass by on the other side…many times I’d rather just Love my “easy to love people” and many times “I DO”…I feel like one of my very good friends that said, “I hope I don’t drop over dead Sunday!”…Paul lists many of the 10 commandments and then says…”all those commands and many others exist for one reason…”Love your neighbor as yourself…love doesn’t harm it’s neighbor…Love is the fulfillment of the law…It almost seems Paul describes living without the mask…living Love out loud in two contexts…verses 9-13 seem to focus more on the context of the church community….Love among and for other Jesus followers…but then he “quits preaching and goes to meddling” as one of my past elders use to kid one about…verses 14-21 describe Love without WAX in the real world.
It starts out “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
If you’ve ever been persecuted, even in the littleness’ way when you know its unjust…then you know real love isn’t about feelings…because if you respond in the natural man or woman way…”You greet hate with hate…you repay evil with evil…you plot revenge…you could care less if they’re hungry or thirsty…in fact you hope they are….and the burning goals you want to heap on their heads is literal…not figurative!
Or like most of us…you let it stew in your thoughts and heart… (Sometimes you can’t even help it) but you don’t really do much except hope that they get theirs! And after awhile you don’t think about it as much…only when you can give them the “cold shoulder”…
[Here’s what I’ve discovered…every single living person…and those who have died) wants to be first. We are naturally (sinful nature within) proud, conceited, vengeful,….I instantly put myself in the high position and you in the low position… and you do the same…and because of this truth I must pretend at times, fill the cracks in my life with WAX…Put on the mask….
But if I am to sincerely love…(and only one person did that…) if I am to really fulfill the purpose of the law…I have to choose His love…when I feel like it, but as I grow to be like Him…when I really really don’t, it’s hard to live “without WAX” . It’s hard to live “without the mask”….
“If anyone would be my disciple, Jesus said, He or She must deny themselves…take up their cross daily (Luke makes this point) and follow me.”
There will be a lots of people who remind me and you how poorly we do this…Some inside the Kingdom and some in the world….Making harmony difficult…making living at peace a struggle….some might even set themselves up as “your enemy”….the only time they speak to you…is to hurt you….focusing on your scars…your cracks…your failures….Why? Because they’re afraid someone will really see behind their mask…behind that mask is a face controlled with fear and hurt and pain.
[When I was 11, 12, 13 years old I hated to be around crowds because of the scars I had from being burned badly at 10…eventually someone would say, “What happened to your face”. Sometimes other kids who first didn’t know better, but sometimes Adults that did…I’d say “I was burned” (If you want to know the whole story listen to my testimony http://www.gardensidecc.org/The fire that burns away the clutter) The scars were always …they’ve faded in the past 42 years, but even today I see them clearly every morning when I shave. I can’t hide them, can’t grow a beard to cover them…I can cover my arms, chest and stomach…but not the scars on my face…what has made that not really important… WHAT HAS MADE that something I really don’t think about most days….KARI….She has convinced me of a Love that knows they are there, but doesn’t see them anymore…and as they fade…I live without a mask because of her love…
Love that is sincere helps people reveal their scars…some will fade over time, some not so much…but Jesus first, and then those people who love like Him will speak this truth…over and over again…Isaiah foretold it 800 years before it become reality…
ISAIAH 53: 3-6
Every scar, every sin, every wound…He bore …”Like one from whom people hide their faces.” In the presence of Jesus…In the presence of the Savior…Our Lord…No outward beauty…nothing in his appearance…but He is so beautiful everyone else wants to hide their scars.
He lived, He died, He rose again…never having to wear a mask…or disguise a crack in the jar…All for us…that is a Love that overcomes SCARS.