By Brooke Holt
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Romans 12:9
Paul goes from exhorting you to love without hypocrisy (to love authentically) to telling you to hate (abhor) what is evil. That seems a rather odd shift. Why would he transition from the command to love to the next command to hate? Our “tolerant”-focused world has dismissed the concept that part of genuine love is hate. God hates evil, unrighteousness, false religion, haughty spirits, and all sin. Are not his followers called to hate the things he hates?
Granted, he calls us to hate the sin and not the sinner - a tough differentiation at times! I continue to wrestle personally in this area. In a teaching on Romans, Skip Heitzig made this statement: “One of the greatest weaknesses in the church is not intolerance but tolerance for evil” (Love is a Verb sermon). He makes a challenging but good point. Evil has invaded almost every aspect of our lives, and we have come to tolerate it. Consider the television shows on these days or the advertisements. We are inundated with messages contrary to the teachings of Scripture. What is a Christian to do in today's world?
The Christians to whom Paul was writing in Rome lived in a culture similar to ours today. They lived in a paganistic society that celebrated evil and ridiculed and dismissed Christianity. They faced the temptation to accept the ways of the world, to keep peace, and to not stand out from the crowds, but Paul was teaching these Christians (or us) to do something quite different
Paul taught in the beginning of chapter 12 not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of your mind (see Romans 12:1-2). Now, he provides further instruction in hating what is evil and holding fast to what is good.
He beckons us to stop and consider what is truly good. God is the only one who is completely good. His Word is good. His way is perfect. He is unchanging and steadfast in every way so we must begin with him. Each time you set your heart and mind upon the Lord, you can experience his goodness. When you read Scripture, you meditate on that goodness. When you worship, the goodness of God fills the space.
In this passage, Paul admonishes us to cling to those things, to make them the ultimate priority of our lives. Then we live our lives in accordance with the ways of the Lord. At lunch today, I noticed a man’s bracelet which read, “What did Jesus do?” - a much different message than we used to read, “What would Jesus do?”
Everything about Jesus was good - not always easy - but good. Jesus always spoke the truth in love. He loved with such an authentic and pure love that his perfectly holy nature demanded he identify sin and call people to obedience. That obedience was and is the way to the good life of the Lord. It may not always mark the easy way, but the long-term benefits are worth it!
Ponder your stance on evil. Are you too tolerant of evil in your life. Ask the Lord to search you and know you, to reveal any place of compromise and then turn from evil and “hold fast to what is good”. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Come explore the grand story of God as the one who knows and loves his people. In one of the greatest love stories ever told, The Book of Exodus reveals God as Yahweh, the Great “I AM.” He is the transcendent, all-powerful creator of all things who defeated the greatest powers of the earth. This same God would have his people know and love him in an intimate and personal way. The Great “I AM” – A Study of the Book of Exodus is a 9-week study consisting of a small group study guide combined with weekly video teachings. Come and meet The Great “I AM”.
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