Be Sincere In Love
Love Good; Hate Evil

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 61b of 83

9a Let love be without dissimulation. 9b Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:9-10).

[What does it look like to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices unto the Lord? Paul answers by suggesting that first of all, that we must use the spiritual gifts that God bestowed upon us for one another’s benefit. But beyond that we must seek to love our brethren in the church by taking heed to bless them by our attitude and behaviour towards then. In the previous instalment, we saw Paul’s instruction to love one another sincerely. —JJL ]

2.  Love Good, Hate Evil

9b Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

That is to say: hate that which is evil, avoid it like you will avoid going near someone who is covered with excrement. But love that which is good and embrace and cling on to it zealously.

We must never be neutral towards good and evil. We must be intensely partisan towards them. Glue yourself to that which is good, and flee from that which is evil.

Never be disinterested towards good, or ambivalent towards evil. Never be disinterested towards good, or ambivalent towards evil. It is not your business to try to make evil and good shake hands. You are to fight against evil on the side of good.

What are the evil and the good that Paul has in mind? Well he does not tell us. If we look at good and evil generally, they would include evil ideas and good ideas, evil practices and good practices, and even evil person and good persons.

Anything that is for the devil is evil; and anything that is for God is good. Anything that promotes the glory of God and the good of His Church is good. Anything that promotes self and sin, and brings shame to the name of Christ and destruction to His Church, is evil.

However, in the context it appears that the apostle Paul is using the word good and evil in a restricted sense of “what is good and what is evil towards others.” What is good towards others is what is kind, while what is evil is what is injurious.

What Paul is saying then, would be: “Strive to avoid what is injurious to others, but earnestly endeavour to do whatever is kind and useful to them.”

What are some things that are injurious to others? Gossip, is one. “A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends” (Prov 16:28). Gossips are not harmless. They hurt. “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” (Prov 18:8). We must hate gossips. We should refuse to receive them, much less pass them on.

Another thing that is injurious to others is flattery. The world will never think of flattery as evil. For to the world, what is evil is what will make others unhappy, whereas flattery seems to make others happy. If you praise another person, will he not feel good? And yet the Scripture tells us that flattery is wicked: “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Prov 26:28). “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.” (Prov 29:5). Why is flattery evil? It is evil because it puffs up a person. Now, it is no flattery if someone has done something for you and you tell him you appreciate what he did for you. But flattery goes beyond that. Flattery is calculated to make a person a feel greater than he really is. Flattery blinds a person to his faults and therefore becomes a snare to him. A person who is used to flattery will become very angry and discouraged when he is told his faults. We must always avoid flattery.

A third thing that is injurious to others is the opposite of flattery, namely unfair criticisms. Now it is a very strange thing, but while the world loves flattery, many professing believers swinging to the extreme become guilty of insensitivity and unfair criticisms.

They reason that they must not flatter. They reason that they must tell the truth even if it hurts; and so they blurt out what they have to say about another person on the pretext of doing good.

It is easy to do so: why are you so poorly dressed on the Sabbath? Why are your children so poorly behaved? Why are you not a homemaker? Why is it you do not attend prayer meeting?

The apostle Paul was himself a victim of unfair criticism: “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2Cor 10:10).

Unfair criticism is often rife in churches where there are strong convictions. So those who are weak are stumbled. They feel they are looked down upon and judged as second class citizens. This should not be the case.

We must learn to admonish one another in love, but we must remember to do so sensitively so that we do not stumble one another. We must flee from unfair criticisms. We must show genuine concern for one another rather than a concern to see that everyone else is like ourselves.

Let us strive to avoid those things that are injurious to others. Gossips, flattery and unfair criticism are just three of the more common evils.

On the other hand we must endeavour to do good to one another. What are some good we can do to one another in the church?

One good thing that that we could do for one another is to watch out for one another. We must be our brother’s keepers (Gen 4:9).

You know most of us have such a busy work life that we are often closer to our colleagues than to one another. Well this is not the ideal situation, for we are brothers and sisters in Christ. But it is a reality! And yet, we must not simply say it is a reality and therefore do nothing about it.

Paul teaches us to cleave to that which is good. And if we want to do good to one another in the church, we must look out for one another. When we come to church, we must not walk in and out of church with our eyes staring into blank space or staring at the floor. We must greet one another. We must talk to one another.

We must ask after the well-being of one another. I am not saying we should ask for the sake of asking. But we should ask that we may pray or may help. We must be sincere in love, and therefore we must ask sincerely. We must not assume that we will be told without our asking if our brethren are in need. Neither must we assume that it is enough for us to receive an update from the bulletin.

If we love someone we will be concerned about him and we will ask after him. Thus, although, we may receive a prayer update by our elders about someone, love will require us to ask after the person rather than assuming that since we already know we need not say anything.

But let us learn to ask not only about each other’s health, but about each other’s walk with the Lord. Do not wait for the elders to ask these questions in their home visits. These questions should be asked regularly so that we may pray for one another.

Now, another good thing that we can do to for another is to go out of the way to show kindness to one another. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2) says Paul. We can do so by being helpful to one another.

A family in the church has been afflicted with illness. What can we do? Do not just recommend some health supplements. Buy something for them, or better still drop by to help in the marketing and housework.

I know we have become so self-sufficient and individualistic that when we think of going by to somebody’s house to help out, we wonder if we will be welcomed. But the question is have we tried?

And the admonishment for all of us is: Let us learn to receive one another’s help and acts of love cheerfully. Remember that it is better to give than to receive. So husbands and wives, if someone offer to look after your children so that you can go out to take a break, do not turn her down for fear of inconveniencing her. Let us remember that we are in the same family.

Yet another good thing that we can do for one another is to pray for one another. The apostle Paul reminds us in a number of places to pray for one another. For example, we read in Ephesians 6:18—

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…” (Eph 6:18).

We must supplicate for all saints. We must pray for one another. Intercessory prayer is a duty of every Christian. It is one of the acts of kindness that we must cling on to.

Have you been interceding for your friends and brethren, dear Christian?

Cleave to that which is good. Looking out for one another, bearing one another’s burden and praying for one another, are just three examples of some of the good that we can do for one another. I am sure you can think of many other ways.

Only do not just think about them, but take steps to do them. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” in order that there may be genuine love in the church.

…to be Continued Next Issue

 —JJ Lim