I have never noticed this passage before the verse, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” This is the kind of passage that a preacher would like to have in his back pocket for special occasions, to get the church on their feet. But that’s not what I want to focus on. I actually want to focus on Romans 12:9a, which says, “Let love be genuine.” (ESV)


What is love (besides the 1993 hit song called “What Is Love” by Haddaway)? That is a tricky one, because one moment you can say, “I love my family,” and the next you can say, “I love this pizza.” You basically just compared your family to pizza. I think that is where our English language fails us. It has many different meanings for love, but we only use one word to describe all the different types of love. Silly us.


When this passage was being written, which was mostly in Greek, they had at least four different words to describe love. The words were eros, storge, phileo, and agape. You might have heard of them, but for those who haven’t, I will give a brief definition of each one. Eros means an all-receiving love. You don’t need to give; you always get. Storgeis more of a family love. Phileo is a giving and receiving of love. Agape means all-giving love (best described as God’s love). Agape is an open and vulnerable place, and it’s an action. Love makes you do things.


Have you ever thought what the opposite of love is? I used to think it was hate. You love someone or you hate someone, but I no longer believe that. The opposite of love in my mind is fear. What do I mean by that? Fear cripples a person and keeps him or her from being open or vulnerable. It takes away a person’s ability to give or receive. It’s a cold and lonely place, a prison.


Fear can’t be around God because love is a bold movement that has no boundaries or limits to what it can do. Fear, on the other hand, is all limits. It doesn’t allow you to break free and be who God has called you to be as a person.


So what is genuine love? To be genuine, you have to fully reveal yourself. You have to be open to being rejected and still being open to the possibility of love. No matter if you’re cast out, rejected, ignored, or not accepted, you don’t react to the circumstances in front of you but continue giving of yourself. It is being authentic no matter where you are or who you are with.


God is genuine in His nature, and we see that through Jesus and His life on earth. No matter what circumstance He faced or who He was around, He was completely Himself. He was genuine love.


God doesn’t want us to live in a prison. He has so many wonderful plans for us, the first being to be known and loved by God. But you can’t accept that if you’re living in a prison of your own fears and doubts.


The first step is to replace your thoughts of not being good enough with His Word, His hope for you, and His steadfast love. When you find yourself dwelling on your own inabilities . . . I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, athletic enough . . . stop those thoughts and force yourself to dwell on God’s Word. Psalm 139:14 says: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”


That is my prayer for you this week.