19 Dear friends, don't try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says,
“I am the one to take revenge
and pay them back.”
20 The Scriptures also say,
“If your enemies are hungry,
give them something to eat.
And if they are thirsty,
give them something
This will be the same
as piling burning coals
on their heads.”
21Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.
There are four Greek words that in English we simply translate “love”. Two are in this passage: “Be sincere in your love for others” and “love each other as brothers and sisters”. The first is agape which is unconditional love (the love God has for us), and the second is philia (where we get “Philadelphia”) which is brotherly love. Both of these loves are in the introductory lines of this new passage or thought, which seems to mean that this is central in Paul’s point.
Brothers and sisters in Christ love each other. How? For starters, be “sincere.” In the original language the word is “non-hypocritically” – without pretense. The etymology of “hypocrisy” is connected to acting. Greek actors used large masks in order to play a character. These masks also helped amplify their voices in larger venues. In the truest sense of the word, Paul is encouraging the Church to not wear masks, not act with one another, so that the Church becomes the most honest, and least pretentious community of all. Love must be without acting, and with your true voice.
“Love each other… never give up”! Hear the resolve in this second admonition? Paul is saying, “make this your quest.” Then as a spiritual father would, he outlines a series of do’s and don’ts. Do: be devoted, honour, keep your spiritual fervour, be joyful, patient, be faithful in your prayers, share, be hospitable, bless, rejoice, mourn, live in harmony, live at peace…
Imagine a community like this! Imagine that you are welcome to come as you are into this community, while you are encouraged to be real. Imagine that the love that is extended to you is not based on your salary or who you know. Imagine that all your shortcomings will no longer define you. Imagine participating and contributing to this love driven community.
Father you love me. You are helping me become my authentic self. You are teaching honesty in the deepest parts of me. Now, loving Father, love others through me, with this same type of love.