Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9,21)
Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians contains some of the deepest doctrinal teaching found anywhere in the Bible. But when we come to chapter 12 we see Paul setting aside his professorial robes and demeanor to talk to us in the kindly tones of a father. We can almost hear him say, with Solomon, “My son, listen carefully to my words, for they will bring real life to you, and radiant health” (Proverbs 4:20,22). In the brief thirteen verses of Romans 12:9-21, Paul gives no less than twenty-eight quips of wise advice and practical counsel. His theme is the same as any godly preacher or father: the struggle between good and evil. He begins his little book of Proverbs by urging us to “abhor what is evil, while clinging to what is good” (verse 9), and then ends in similar fashion: “Do not be overcome by evil; rather, overcome evil with good.” We live in an evil world. No matter how hard we may try to protect ourselves and our loved ones, we are inundated daily with words and ideas and images of unimaginable filth and degradation. “Everything seems okay to me,” we may say, but that’s because evil is often so cleverly disguised that the stench is gone, and we are attracted by the trappings draped around it by Satan. “How could anything so beautiful be bad,” is the mantra so often repeated by those under his spell. Our first task is recognizing the evil, seeing through the camouflage. As difficult as this may be, the second task is a far greater challenge: abhorring the evil, once we have identified it. The word abhor and its cousin, horror, both come from a Latin word meaning “to shudder.” Think of the worst smell you’ve ever smelled. How did you react? Not only did you regard the odor with extreme repugnance, you no doubt beat feet to get away from it as fast as you could! This is what Paul is telling us to do whenever we see or hear or smell – or are tempted to commit – anything that is evil. If you linger in its presence you will soon be overcome by it. When I was growing up it was made very clear to me what activities Christians did not engage in: smoking, drinking, cussing, dancing, wild parties – all tools and toys of the devil! I’ve pretty much stuck to this code of ethics, and I suppose it has kept me out of a lot of trouble. But what was missing in my upbringing was what Christians should do instead. But it’s not missing from the Bible. Many of Paul’s twenty-eight proverbs are of the more positive variety. “Do you want to have a good life?” Paul asks, “then find what’s good and CLING to it. Don’t stop abhorring evil, but know when to run away from it and when to stand up and fight it – and the best way to do that is to CLOBBER it over the head with good!
Bits & Pieces from Japan
8 years ago