Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

Phony ♥ vs. Real Love . . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 14 November 2008

Let love be without dissimulation . . . .
~ Romans 12:9

If the current state of the world and our society and many of our churches is evidence of what love is. . . it is clear that we have only the foggiest of notions of what love really is.

And, in the case of the Church, if we do know, we’re certainly not doing it -- and indeed the lyrics “What the world needs now. . . is love, sweet love” are more than just an annoying commercial for Sandal’s® Resorts!

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that ". . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. . ." and it is by no mistake that Love is mentioned first in this list of spiritual character qualities. Any overview of the New Testament will very quickly show that Love in the Christian life is of utmost importance.

The word Love in 1 Corinthians 13, is the Greek word agape, meaning God-like love. And it is in this "Love Chapter" that Paul shows the absolute priority of Love, stating that all other gifts -- without love -- are utterly useless!

If agape is synonymous with God-like, then we have certainly and often abused the term.

Most Christians have equated the word love with caring, benevolent giving or -- in most cases -- nothing more than sheer emotionalism.

On more than just a few occasions, I catch myself using the term very casually and loosely. I express my “love” for physical things . . .

(e.g. "I love Ghirardelli® Dark Chocolate." "I love Downy® Wrinkle Releaser!")

I’ve notice quite a bit on the Internet lately, people substituting the word “heart” to convey their affinity for a certain object or concept:

“I heart the worship at my church,”
“I heart Diet Dr. Pepper®”
or how 'bout this: “I ♥ my Minnesota Vikings”
"I ♥ L.L. Bean"

People say they love an endless number of things. And these statements become ridiculous when we begin to understand what Scriptural love (agape) really is.

Our “love” of some physical thing is merely an opinion – a preference. A preference is not love. To use “love” in this way devalues it. . .

. . . and this is precisely why it is so easy to "fake" our love towards fellow Christians.

Go to Romans 12:9:

"Let love be without dissimulation . . . . "

The King James Version uses the old English word dissimulation, but the Greek word is anupokritos, and it describes something that is pretended, simulated, faked, feigned, or phony. It pictures a person who deliberately gives a certain impression, even though they know the impression is untrue. In other words, the person is phony.

If we have learned -- by virtue of living in this culture -- to abuse, misuse, misunderstand and fail to appreciate the word "love," how much more of a predicament are we in when we try to actually show it? It becomes apparent why we are admonished in God's Word to "Let love be without dissimulation . . . . "

Having been a pastor's wife, I can tell you with firsthand knowledge and experience that church members are perhaps and often the most guilty when it comes to being phony. There is a lot of hate out there masquerading as love; and I hesitate to put that on the blog for all the world to see because it is so, so sad.

The existence of phony Christians is a universal truth --evidenced by the hypocrisy in churches across the United States (and everywhere!) that becomes more and more widespread as time marches on. . . .

And I'm not sure why, but I receive e-mail from people asking how I personally deal with it. Well . . . I'm addressing it here by attacking the issue from it's big back-door entrance: Lack of true, Scriptural, Christlike love.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us — by instructing us -- "to put away childish things" (I Corinthians 13:11). In other words, our idea and practice of "love" is immature. And in his reference to a mirror (verse 12) -- he reminds us that love is something we grow in. He's telling us -- in so many words -- that love does not come easy. It must be perfected.

The love that we know and understand and practice now (in this lifetime) is partial. God does not give it to us in one huge portion to be used until we run out of it. In that sense, we must always see ourselves as immature -- lacking love. I'll go out on the proverbial limb here and say that I know very few Christians practicing genuine agape love. It's just not our nature!

A time is coming when love will be perfected, and we will have it in abundance like God. In the meantime -- while we are in the flesh -- we are to "pursue love" (I Corinthians 14:1).

Bottom line: Scriptural love is not something we have innately.

So how do you deal with phony love? Phony Christians?

Understand first that we're all in the same predicament. We are all flesh. We are all short of God's glory. We are all short of possessing true agape love.

Instead of getting bitter and hardhearted toward someone who has acted hypocritically in their relationship or friendship with you, learn from the experience. Make the decision that you will not be phony or hypocritical in your relationship the way this person was to you.

Make sure you forgive those who have wronged you. Let it go and do your best to overlook their inconsistencies. The Lord will deal them them about their actions against you, so if they come to you in repentance let them know they are forgiven.

You may never be given the opportunity to offer some people forgiveness. If someone is unwilling to allow the Holy Spirit to deal with them, they may not come to a point of repentance. . . . And it is not ours to judge that person's heart. It is ours to pray for them. God's timing is perfect . . . and

Someday, when you least expect it (and have altogether forgotten. . . ) someone who hurt in the past may come out of nowhere and ask for your forgiveness. FORGIVE THEM!

Jesus said this:

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
~Matthew 22:39

All by itself, this establishes a pretty high standard. But HE raises this a notch when HE says this:

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
~ Matthew 5:44

HE also says this:

"Greater love has no one that this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."
~ John 15:13

Will we ever live up to this?

~ Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
© 2008 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

Inspiration for Fridays:

Fruit of the Spirit Friday at Heart of Wisdom
God Stop Friday at Girlfriends for God
Company Girl Coffee at Home Sanctuary


Robin @ Heart of Wisdom said...

"phony Christians" Too busy playing church to love one another. I believe most are blind to their phony-ness. Its a big part of battling the flesh. We're all in the same predicament. God help us.

We should deal with it with the way God deals with us mercy, love, forgiveness and compassion.

Good post. Thanks.

Barbara said...

You speak truth, Esthermay. Many church problems grow out of lack of agape love. It a problem only found in church becuase the world is not instructed to love. That's our job. The world's definition of love has also become the defintion for the church and there's where we get stuck. Thank you for this.

Kela said...

The word "LOVE" is used very flippantly in large circles..including the church.
I have a hard time asking anyone in church for something intimate like prayer or sharing personal feelings. They listen or say they'll pray in the name of love, when a lot of times it isn't their heart.
I may have gotten off on a tangent and run away with my thought. Sorry.
I have become mindful who I take councel from. My chain of "command" is first the Lord and then my husband. I wait on their leading to go to an outside source (my sisters in Christ).
We've had enough loveless phony-ness. I've been burned. I have not become closed up, untrusting or cold-hearted, only more of a discerner.

john burreson said...

AMEN. Wonderful words of wisdom here. In my experience, I've learned that it is the spiritually and chronologically mature that come closest to god-like love. But even then, phoniness is next to religion as the top expected church behavior. God sees the heart. Keep writing truth!

Rachel Anne said...

I "heart" your blog.

Sorry, couldn't resist. :)

But you are right....I throw the word love around so casually, not really stopping to think. My mother used to prevent us from overusing words like "love" and "hate" so that we would reserve them for things deserving of them. I hadn't remembered that until now.

BTW, congratulations on Blog of the Month...well deserved. You have a beautiful way of expressing yourself.

Good luck on your mission tonight. You've laid such perfect groundwork. I won't expect a full report, just "mission accomplished" will do. ;)

Andrea said...

I'm not sure where the verse is... "love (real agape LOVE)covers a multitude of sins" but your post reminds me of this.

If we really understood it and practiced it, our stupid attempts at love would be forgiven. And you are so right that church folks are the most guilty. When will we learn? Wonderful post and I ♥ your blog. (Couldn't resist either.)

secondofwett said...

Thank you for expressing the thoughts that the Lord has given you.

kalopoieo said...

Churches, like the church of Ephesus, die because they left their first love- Jesus. Apart from Jesus, we cannot love others. Not in the church. Not outside the church. Vistors to churchs pick up on this very quickly and it's one reason why churches don't grow.

I do not find it odd at all that as a pastor's wife you see this truth more readily than the rest of us.

I personally also see selfishness run amuck as another reason we lack love -- love is an outward act. Selfish people can't do this. Most people ACTIVE in churches are selfish. Look at the quiet folks who don't say much. They're the ones possessing love.

Wonderful writing.

Anonymous said...

This is very good. The pictures are perfect and speak to the message. I arrived by Christian Women Online. BLOG OF THE MONTH is much deserved. I'll visit again.
God's Blessings on you and your family.


sara said...

Great post, esthermay. I think another way "phony" love crops up in the church is when the people become too busy to care about those around them. they rush in to church late and leave early because of "schedules" and don't take the time to get to know the people of their church. It makes me so sad to see church becoming just another check on the list.

btw, if you would like to see the rest of my pictures, you can become my friend on facebook. I posted most of them there! Loved your story about your husband!! My husband looked at by blog and said he had to work hard not to comment "what knockers", yes, a young frankenstein fan! :)

Alicia said...

Great post!

Did you get all your cookies done? I still have one more dozen to do this morning.

Thanks for stopping by!

Patty said...

I have to thank you for this post. Goodness that hit home. Thank you for being obedient to write this post.

I want to thank you and your husband for praying for me. It has been a long season BUT God has taught me so much. One day I may have to share certain things through this journey.


forgetfulone said...

What a great reminder about a very difficult thing to do - to love purely.

betsy j. said...

Very nice. I'll look forward to the day you can write about former church members who have finally allowed the HS to speak to them and have come to you for forgivenenss. You were wronged terribly but showed and still show great and genuine love. Your reward is in heaven! Lovely post

Sherry said...

Ouch and amen! Well said!

Matthew 5:44 is very special to me. If we follow it, it will change US - which is usually half the problem :)

Thanks for you words of wisdom!

mholgate said...

Great thoughts, as usual. I am constantly coming back to the topic of walking in love. It is never something that we will perfect here on this earth, but God calls us to love, as He loved us and gave His Son for us.

Thank you for your honesty. I really enjoy your insight.


Paul Maurice Martin said...

"Will we ever live up to this?"

Great question - for non Christians as well as Christians. As you say, I think there's a lot of confusion around what love is - the "emotionalism" you mention. That confusion, it seems to me, is increased by how as a society we've embraced "romantic love" as the ideal form or expression of love.

Melanie said...

Great post! We do throw around the word love without even thinking about it. YOu've given me a lot to think about. Thanks!

penney douglas said...

Many people in organized churches seem to have a real problem with this. My husband and I have attended many churches and have even been active in several and stayed for periods of years. But now we would rather stay home and fellowship with God and each other because we know the love is real here, and my family is safe from unnecessary exposure to one-ups-manship and competition and phony love. I left high school a long time ago. I don't want to go back. Going to church is like being in high school.

A part of our love problem is that some of us have never had to suffer lack. We don't have compassion or mercy or love because we judge harshly and think people have brought their problems on themselves.

I think God is dealing with that now through things that He has allowed to happen in this nation.

Your writing is very inspiring.

I'm glad I came over from Heart of Wisdom.


Named Alicia said...

Amen. We were just having this conversation with another couple over dinner. How do we truly show God's love to one another and to the world? It is a tough question to live out, but it is so vitally important!

Great post! Thanks for sharing!

Laurie Ann said...

Thanks for the powerful reminder to be mindful of using the word "love". I did love your post, though. Everything you wrote was so true - I more than just liked it!

LAURIE said...

Esther May - congrats on the CWO blog of the week!!! -Laurie

lori said...

oh yes....the phony~ness that seems to run rampant these days...not a real reflection of love, far from it, but somehow we are allowing it to be enough...I guess it comforts us to close our eyes and buffer ourselves to what REAL love is and would do....

hmmmmm....you've got us thinking today girl...It's always good to have a pastor's wife...(especially one who delivers coffee;)) minister to us:)!!
I LOVE the ones that make me think, especially on a Monday!

Blessings! and peace

I have to admit though, I heart the Pittsburgh Steelers....I'm working on it;)

Rachel said...

Wow. You have challenged and convicted me.

Will I ever live up to Him? No. There are people I would willingly lay down my life for, but Jesus did it for EVERYONE. But with His strength I will become more like Him.

I actually like the "heart" substitution. It's a way (for me, anyway) to say how much I really, really like or enjoy something without saying "love" (because I agree with you, "love" can be way over- and misused). And "heart" is just kind of silly. :)

Thank you for the Greek on the Romans verse. It's very, very challenging!

Betsy Markman said...

Amen, amen, amen!!!

There is someone I once thought I loved. I "loved" this person because they put me up on a pedestal and treated me like a queen. Now things have changed a great deal, and for many years I was very bitter. But now the Lord is showing me that I never loved that person at all. I loved ME, and that person served my self-love very nicely. Now I find it very hard to enjoy that person at all, but I'm learning, for the first time, to love them. It has nothing to do with enjoying them, and everything to do with wanting God's best for them and being willing to be used by Him for their good.

Thank you for this awesome post! You are saying what needs to be said, and what so few are willing to say!

micey said...

This is a beautiful post!

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