“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).
In this section of Romans, Paul laid out the case for love. He exhorted believers to honor God with their bodies by loving their fellow believer and showing hospitality. He urged us to outdo one another in showing honor. Our love is to be strong.
The first attachment he puts on genuine love, however, is fascinating. We might not expect it. What is his first outworking of love? “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” There it is. The abhorrence of evil is the top outworking of love. The first one mentioned.
We might think of love as sentimental and soft, but a hatred of evil is a very natural outworking of love. Since I love my children, I defend them against evil. My love for them makes me abhor evil. I abhor what evil can do. I abhor the separation it creates between God and man. I abhor it because it drove my Lord to His cross. I’m glad He went there, but I hate what my evil did to Him there.
This puts it too lightly, but evil is unhelpful. It never aids a human life. It does not upbuild. Why would I love something that destroys a human life?
This isn’t self-righteous abhorrence of evil, sort of an “I would never do that” kind of attitude. Not at all. Let us rid ourselves of this mentality. Paul isn’t telling us to be grossed out by evil, surprised it exists. Surprised someone could live in such filth. No, we must understand the human condition better than that. Any of us could enter into any sin. Temptation is common.
But we are to hate the evil, to abhor it. Not in the religious way, but in the loving way. We hate what it does to a person’s life. Like a mother bear protecting her cubs, we hate the potential danger of this predator called evil. This is love.
Believers usually have their list of a few forms of evil they can insert into an exhortation like this. Yes, we might say, “I will abhor evil. I will abhor sexual deviancy or murder or child abuse. Done. I abhor it.”
Perhaps God would ask us to go a bit further. Perhaps loving abhorrence of evil might cause us to look inward a bit further. Here are some possible areas we might be prone to overlook:
This one makes my list here, not because it is surprising, but because it is too often tolerated. We live in a culture swimming in sexual immorality of all kinds, yet we are no happier for it. We are called to live differently as believers. Pornography has no place in the Christian life. It is an addictive evil that will sink its teeth into a man or woman. If this is your battle, confess to God, but also confess to man. Allow the fear of the Lord to saturate your heart. Do not let go of this struggle until the victory of Jesus becomes yours in this area.
Tongues based sins are often tolerated by believers. We ought to abhor the damage slander and malice can produce in others, but also in us. With every judgmental word I speak about another I am invite a cancer into my own heart.
James spoke of the sin of partiality, preferring one person over another in the body of Christ, due merely to externals. We must watch out for this. Obviously, we will develop close friendships with a small group of fellow believers — not everyone can be our close confidant — but we must be friendly and welcoming to all. Since we are predisposed to one sort of partiality or another, we must allow the blood of Christ to cleanse us through and through.
Jesus Christ has a mission for our lives. We are to make disciples, honor Him, living as salt and light in this world. He redeemed us for a reason. This great salvation must impact our families and friendships, workplaces and churches. But laziness will keep us from His best in our lives. A lack of determination and focus can often destroy His intentions for us. We must abhor it.
A lack of contentment can easily damage God’s work in us. We will often regret purchases we’ve made, purchases that handcuffed us, keeping us from the freedom and flexibility God desires for our lives. Let us not be slave to the lender. I know I want more of this Christlike contentment to fill my heart.