Love unfeigned

It’s how we show true compassion for one another.

Romans 12:9-10 – “Let love be unfeigned. Abhor that which is evil; cling to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another…”

When love is encouraged in the NT writings, it is expressed with a Greek adjective sometimes translated in older versions of the Bible as unfeigned. While this can come across as an antiquated English word, the concept is a valid one. I think the word unfeigned captures it well and deserves much more use among believers today.

In ancient Greek culture, actors were called hypocrites because they would wear masks and pretend to be someone else. To feign can mean to impersonate someone else, or to act hypocritically, or to disguise one’s true intent. To feign is essentially to fake something. By contrast, if someone’s intent is unfeigned, it is therefore without hypocrisy; it is sincere, with no hidden agenda or misrepresentation.

Peter encouraged the believers to practice unfeigned love among themselves, saying it was an indication of pure souls who were following the truth of the Spirit of God.

1 Peter 1:22 – “Seeing you all have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you all love one another with a pure heart fervently…”

Paul also encouraged compassion and love for one another that is real and without hypocrisy. It was not to be just for show or out of sense of compulsion, but it was to be genuine, sincere and from the heart. Paul stated this was characteristic of how the apostles operated within their physical service to the congregations:

2 Corinthians 6:3, 6 – “[We have given] no offence in any thing, that the ministry would not be blamed: … By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned…”

They had demonstrated all of their compassionate help and the sincerity of their ministry by providing shared resources and diligent teaching among the scattered believers through the most unimaginable difficulties of physical circumstances.

2 Corinthians 6:4-5 – “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in watchfulness, in fastings…”

All of these things, Paul says, were demonstrations of their unfeigned love for the brethren; this is what unfeigned love looks like in practice.

The apostle John also condemns love that is expressed as lip service only and juxtaposes that aberration to the ideal of biblical love.

1 John 3:18 – “Little children, let us not love in word or speech only, but in action and in truth.”

Peter, Paul, and John were all pointing believers toward true compassionate love for one another that actually produces fruitful actions on behalf of others. John especially gets right to the heart of the matter by stating that Yeshua set the standard by laying down his life as an act of the purest and most sincere love.

1 John 3:16-17 – “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brethren. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him ​– ​how does God’s love reside in him?”

According to these biblical principles, love unfeigned is a love that acts sincerely and through all difficulties to place the needs of others above ourselves. This should prompt us to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the true level of our love and compassion for one another today.


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The maturity of forgiveness

Judgment provides a needed distinction between right and wrong, but forgiveness captures the possibility of love.

Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:1-2

Don’t criticize others.

This teaching of Yeshua highlights that there is a balance, or a universal equity that God maintains. If an individual is overly critical of others, the same level of critical judgment will be applied to them. This is not always recognized by others because the timing of this judgment does not always immediately follow an infraction. However, the Bible promises that justice will be realized in the balance of God’s Creation, in his time.

This is expressed more fully in the parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Luke 6:36-37

Forgiveness is a quality that sits outside of judgment. When judgment is the primary objective, the possibility of forgiveness becomes diminished. Both are necessary, but both serve different purposes.

Judgment provides a needed distinction between right and wrong. We rely on our judgment to ensure that fairness is being practiced or demonstrated. This is not a complex function. For example, even toddlers can recognize when playmates are being fair or unfair when it comes to sharing toys.

Forgiveness is a more complex quality that requires an increased level of maturity. There has to not only be a recognition of a wrong that has been committed, but another “something” beyond the understanding of that wrong that still reaches out to the other individual to maintain a positive relationship.

Through recognition of the reality of this universal balance that God maintains, on even the most basic of levels we should be challenged to grow in maturity in our relationships and our dealings with others. As we encourage the seeds of this nascent maturity to thrive, they are enabled to grow into acts of mercy, and ultimately to blossom into genuine love.

Blinded by hypocrisy

Within each individual there must be a deep desire for fairness and justice, otherwise hypocrisy would be meaningless.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5

Don’t be hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is readily understood by all people. Hypocritical actions are the basis of lost trust, strained work relations, and broken friendships. Hypocrisy undermines the integrity of those who exemplify it.

Within each individual there must be a deep desire for fairness and justice, otherwise hypocrisy would be meaningless. Recognizing hypocritical actions demonstrates how all people, regardless of religious beliefs, have the ability to discern a measure of rightness or equity.

When someone doesn’t hold themselves to the same standards they expect of others, they reveal a moral deficiency that invalidates their position. They can become blinded to the true state of any given situation, and then remain unable to be an effective help those around them.

This is why it is critical that we as believers maintain a consistent worldview in all matters of any moral depth. Our ability to maintain our integrity reflects on the One whom we represent, and the kingdom he is establishing. When our integrity is intact, we then have the clarity of vision to keep our own way pure, and also to provide that exemplary guidance as a light to others.