Yesterday we said that in order for us to truly and properly worship our Lord, we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices for His purposes. In other words, we must set aside our prideful desires to make room for what He wants for us. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:2)
How should we respond to God’s great mercy toward us? Paul says our first response is to figure out what spiritual gift or gifts God has given to us, then actually use those gifts to serve other Christians in the church, while using the sound judgment God has given us (Rom 12:3-8).
Now he begins a list-like section of quick commands about how Christians should lead their everyday lives. “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (v 9) We all know that we should love each other, but Paul’s instruction is that our love must be genuine or sincere. In other words, Christians are not called to fake an attitude of love for each other as those will who deceive like their leader, the devil (John 8:44). Instead we are to find ways to express God’s love meaningfully, as an extension of God’s love for us and ours for Him. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet 4:8)
Next, Paul uses a strong word often translated as “hate” or “abhor.” This is the Greek term apostygountes, which implies a dislike or revulsion towards something. In the Old Testament is described seven things God hates, using the equivalent Hebrew term. None of these hated things are people; all of them are sin. “There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov 6:16-19)
Christians, too, are called to learn to hate what is evil, meaning sin. This is especially true of sin that brings harm to the innocent. “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps 34:14) This is one of the ways we need to be transformed to think like God (Rom 12:2). Hating evil, especially the sins that intrigue us, does not always come naturally.
Finally, Paul commands us to hold fast to, or cling to, what is good. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:21-22) Again, it can sometimes be hard to know what is truly good. We must learn to see the world through God’s perspective, to deeply invest our time and energy in securing and keeping what is truly “good.”
We all come upon people in our lives who spew hate as easily as they breathe. We need to understand that not everyone who professes they are a Christian has put aside their old self and “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:22-24) While the Bible tells us that we will know people by their fruit (Matt 7:16), we cannot see into their hearts as the Lord does (1 Sam 16:7).
I’ve really struggled with angry and hurt feelings with a particular individual this week, specifically tied to their hateful and purposely hurtful speech that they spew. I am not to gossip about them (Rom 1:29), I’m not to mouth off as they do (James 3:8), I’m not even to think about what I would like to say to them.
The Lord has put it on my heart that I am to thank Him for His saving grace that I do not deserve. I am also to pray for these people that their eyes may be open to the Lord’s saving grace so that they, too, may learn to “love without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” The angry world needs our prayers, not our opinions of their behavior.