Those outside the church often complain about hypocrisy among so-called “Christians”, and they are right to do so in many instances. One of the most difficult things for me as a Christian has been to witness the unChristian ways in which Christians act. I’m not talking about the isolated incidents where we might slip up and say or do something we know we shouldn’t (1 John 1:8) but the practices that we have or the actions we consciously take. It is the Christian who realizes that the Bible teaches that fornication is wrong but then softens his stance when his college-age son moves in with his girlfriend. There is hypocrisy among some Christians who believe that they have every answer, are always right, and know the Bible better than most others who have studied it. My purpose, here, is not to address that hypocrisy but the hypocrisy of Romans 12:9, “love without hypocrisy”. Certainly, we are to rid ourselves of all deceit and hypocrisy, 1 Peter 2:1.
Now the Bible is clear that we must love our brothers and sisters. 1 John 4:21 tells us that if we love God, we MUST love our brother. Further, 1 John 4:20 tells us that we CANNOT love God if we do not love our brother. 1 John 4:11 conveys that we love each other because God loved us and 1 John 4:12 tells us that God abides in us IF we love one another. You get the idea. Love of brethren is not an option but a command as many other verses attest, James 2:8; Galatians 5:14. In addition, think about what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:22, that “in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart…”. Did you catch the words “sincere”, “fervently”, and “pure”? Ultimately, the one who does not love his brother “abides in death”, 1 John 3:14; and that is not physical death but spiritual death. A person who does not recognize that because God showed love to him he must love his brethren is spiritually dead.
The first thing that is obvious from Romans 12:9 is that love and hypocrisy are mutually exclusive. One cannot love if that love is hypocritical in some way. The question is, “How can our love be with hypocrisy?”
One way is found in 1 John 3:18. It is easy for one to say that he loves his brethren, but John is clear that saying so is not enough. Is it enough for one to say he is a “Christian”? How would a wife feel if her husband just said he loved her? The idea is that we must show that love in our deeds. Showing love is an active thing. Hypocrisy comes in when one says he loves his brother but does nothing to show it. Also, when a person says he loves his brother but his actions are contrary to showing love. For instance, if one person follows the scripture of Matthew 5:23-4 in trying to offer his brother an opportunity for the brother to tell if he has anything against him; and the brother refuses to give reason, his love is hypocritical.
Our love can be hypocritical if we hold others to a higher expectation than we are willing to live by. Such would be similar to what Peter said to his brethren in Acts 15:10. One says that the brethren have a particular problem, but never acknowledges his role in that problem. The brethren are not close enough, but the brother has done nothing to improve closeness between all the brethren.
Our love can be hypocritical if we do not hold to scripture in our dealings with others. We believe the Bible is our source of authority, 2 Timothy 3:16. We say that we need Biblical authority for our actions, yet when we consciously choose to take a particular controversial action, we do not think we need Biblical authority. This situation is particularly true in the case of a decision to leave a congregation, a decision which can only be scripturally defended in limited circumstances.
One of the most beautiful expressions in this regard in the Bible is found in Philippians 2:3-4. Christians are told to look to the interests of others. Our love is hypocritical if we take actions without considering the effect those actions will have on our brethren. If our actions will leave our brethren frustrated, upset, saddened, hurt, etc.; how can we say we love our brethren? Clearly, we can say it, but the hypocrisy is evident. Effectively, we are saying we love you; but we don’t really care about you.
Each of us as a Christian must understand what the Bible teaches about our relationships with brethren and our need to love our brethren and then live what it teaches. People notice easily when the words don’t match the deeds. Unfortunately, oftentimes those are people we might know or are trying to teach who are looking at the example we show forth; and what they see instead of love is hypocrisy.