His words are a clear call to lifestyle evangelism. In his exhortation, Paul uses words to set the stage for the epic battle between good and evil, between light and darkness, and grants us a role in this power play.
He urges us to stand up for what is good, loving, and honorable and to be living witnesses for our generation. The message has not changed: love is still the most excellent way!
Paul starts his appeal in Romans 12:9 with the mentioning of love and hatred, good and evil. His commending when it comes to the deeds of darkness is quite simple: abhor what is evil.
According to the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, to abhor means ‘to think of with hatred and disgust.’ So, having knowledge about good and evil by itself is not enough; we must cultivate a strong dislike for evil.
Paul’s words are actually a serious warning not to be casual about sin or evil, not to be slack in resisting it, and not to ignore the red signals in our lives. Looking back at the history of mankind, we learn that our knowledge of good and evil is a result of eating from the tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22). And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”
That knowledge, also known as our conscience, is, therefore, not a virtue, not something to boast about but simply part of God’s nature in us. It is, however, our reaction to that knowledge which makes all the difference in our daily Christian walk!
Paul calls for action, for a simple but dedicated decision, to make a stand against evil, starting with our thought pattern! The author of Psalm 97:10 makes that choice very clear, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil.” (NIV) Make it your decision today to guard your thoughts!
Why does Paul advocate such black and white thinking? I personally believe it is necessary to take a radical stand against anything evil because if we don’t, it will turn out to be more and more difficult to see a clear difference between good and evil. If our thinking about evil is slightly blurred, our feelings will be and eventually our actions will be. When we neglect to take a stand against darkness, we will, often unknowingly, allow the enemy of God to gain territory in our lives.
Paul warns the believers against the deception of evil over and over again, for example, in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (NIV)
When we refuse to clearly say NO to evil, we will give the enemy of God access and permission to come in and stay with us, and he will do so in often subtle ways. That is why we need a clear picture of darkness versus light, as Paul paints it in Romans 12:9-21.
When studying this part of scripture, I was reminded of my days of dating and courtship, although a long, long time ago. At a young age, I quickly learned that whenever I wasn’t clear about my feelings for a guy, he either kept pursuing me or totally ignored me. A clear yes or no was often needed to set the boundaries for friendship or relationship.
That boldness and clarity should also be our attitude when it comes to anything evil. We must learn to set the boundaries, to think with hatred about evil and, as a result, clearly say NO to anything that opposes the goodness of God.
“God loves all who hate evil.” (Ps. 97:10 Msg)