Question: "What does it mean to let love be without hypocrisy (Romans 12:9)?"
Answer: According to the apostle Paul, a distinguishing mark of true believers is to “let love be without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9, NKJV) because love and hypocrisy are incompatible attitudes.
The Greek word translated “without hypocrisy” (anypokritos) illustrates a love that is sincerely felt or expressed, not pretended. Christians are to demonstrate genuine love. “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them,” reads Romans 12:9 in the New Living Translation.
In 1 Timothy 1:5, Paul urges all believers to “be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith” (NLT). According to the apostle Peter, the believer’s call to holiness demands that they love each other deeply and earnestly: “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart” (1 Peter 1:22, NLT).
How can we let love be without hypocrisy in the daily practice of living in relationship with other believers? Sincere love is grounded in the character of God, whose very nature is love (1 John 4:8, 16). We let our love be without hypocrisy when we love like He does—when we replicate God’s love as demonstrated in the life of His Son. God showed us how to live and love as He does in the person of Jesus Christ.
Love without hypocrisy is unconditional. God loves us just the way we are. We didn’t have to clean up our act for Him to love us: “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT). He loved us first, even though we didn’t deserve His love (1 John 4:19; Ephesians 2:4–6). To emulate God’s love, we must love people who are undeserving, unloving, and rebellious, just as we were when God first loved us. Since nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39), we ought not to let anything separate us from loving others (Romans 13:8).
Love without hypocrisy is sacrificial. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16, NLT). Genuine love means wanting what is best for the ones we love. If we see a brother or sister in need, we do our best to meet that need. Love without hypocrisy proves itself not only “with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16–18; see also 3 John 1:5–6).
Love without hypocrisy is humble. Scripture teaches us to treat others better than we want to be treated ourselves: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3–4). Paul calls us to “serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). Jesus taught us in His great Sermon on the Mount to turn the other cheek when we’ve been wronged (Matthew 5:38–42) and even love our enemies (Matthew 5:43–48).
Love without hypocrisy abides by God’s Word (John 14:15; 2 John 1:6). Jesus Christ, motivated by love, left His home in glory to obey His Father’s call to come and live among us and suffer and die on the cross to save us (Philippians 2:6–8). He said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:9–10).
The Word of God and the life of Jesus Christ reveal a complete and enduring picture of how we let love be without hypocrisy. Perhaps the richest, most detailed description is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!” (NLT).