Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9
When we park our car near an open field and walk across it to get to our house, we almost always get some sticky cockleburs on our clothes—especially in the fall. These tiny “hitchhikers” attach to clothing, shoes, or whatever is passing by and ride to their next destination. It’s nature’s way of spreading cocklebur seeds in my local field and around the world.
As I try to carefully remove clinging cockleburs, I’ve often thought about the message that admonishes believers in Jesus to “cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). When we’re trying to love others, it can be challenging. However, as the Holy Spirit helps us hold on to what’s good with all we have, we can repel evil and be “sincere” in our love as He guides us (v. 9).
Cocklebur seeds don’t fall off with a mere brush of the hand, they hang on to you. And when we focus on what’s good, keeping our mind on God’s mercy, compassion, and commands, we too—in His strength—can hang on tightly to those we love. He helps us stay “devoted to one another in love,” remembering to place other’s needs before our own (v. 10).
Yes, those cockleburs can be challenging, but they also remind me to cling to others in love and by God’s power to grip tightly “what is good” (v. 9; see also Philippians 4:8–9).
How can clinging to what’s good help you love a challenging friend or family member? How is sincere love also a tenacious love?
Remind me to cling with all my might to what’s good, Jesus. I desire to reflect Your love to others.
For further study, read What Do You Do with a Broken Relationship?
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:9 that “love must be sincere.” The word used to describe love here is sincere (anypokritos), which simply means “unhypocritical” or “behavior free from hidden agendas.” A hidden agenda is when a person appears to demonstrate love for someone but really has a selfish motive. It would be easy to read the statements that follow this verse as separate exhortations. However, verses 9–13 are meant to describe what genuine love should look like. This vision of love matches Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 2:3–4: “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.” Jesus said we’re to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). True and sincere love focuses on others and doesn’t seek its own pleasure.