Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
— Romans 12:9-13
The older translations of verse 9, render the phrase, “let love be sincere.” Genuine may fit better in our sensibilities of what love ought to be, but I love the word sincere. Some years ago, in reading a commentary on this passage, I learned the origins of that word. Sincere comes directly from the Latin. (You may need to know as time goes on, I was a Classical Studies major during my days at Vanderbilt, which means any Latin root draws my attention.) Sin cere as it would be in Latin, literally means without wax. The image is a reference to ancient sculptors and the way they would patch an imperfection in their work with wax, hoping to cover a slip of the chisel or a crack in the stone until after it was sold. The best sculptors would place their statues directly in the sun at the market and loudly proclaim “sin cere.” Without wax. The weaker sculptors would shade their work, only to have unsuspecting buyers disappointed when the sun melted the wax and revealed the imperfections.
It seems to me that one of the things that these weeks and months of 2020 have revealed is the wax that covered the imperfections in our community. We have become deeply aware of the differences among our citizens as some have suffered so much more than others — small businesses losing everything, teachers facing danger never before imagined, low wage workers forced to work or go without pay, to name just a few. The cracks in our community are becoming more real in so many ways. More than ever, this is a time for the Christian community to ‘hate what is evil,’ all the ‘isms’ of the day; and ‘hold fast to what is good,’ justice, mercy, and love. This is a time for the Christian community to show all that we have experienced in grace. This is a time for us to see the cracks and scars and love even more the beauty of the kingdom.
In some ways, seeing the imperfections allows us to love more genuinely. To know the need and to love all the more. I am reminded of Dr. King’s famous words, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’” And may it be so.
Bind us together, Lord,
bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord,
bind us tougher, Lord,
bind us together in love.
There is only one God, there is only one King;
there is only one body,
that is why we sing.
Almighty God, you created us in your own image. Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil, and to make no peace with oppression. And that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice to the glory of your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
— The Book of Common Prayer
Pastor Tom Greener