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Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

December 6, 2012

John Allan

In Romans 12:9 the Bible says “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (NKJV).

Our attention at this time is on the latter two sentences in that verse: 1) Abhor what is evil. 2) Cling to what is good.

We might be inclined to think that “abhor” is just a fancy word for “hate.” Nonetheless, with the way that the word “hate” gets used today “abhor” does have the benefit of striking us with the intense displeasure Christians should have for evil. “Hate” is a word we hear a lot, and it is misapplied often enough that it loses some of its force.

But whether you prefer “hate” or “abhor” do not miss the point Paul is making. Evil should be detestable to us. It should bother us. Since it is contrary to Christ and pulls people away from him we should genuinely hate it. We certainly should not be toying with it.

Sometimes people confuse hating sin with hating a person entangled in sin. This is where the familiar expression “Hate the sin, love the sinner” can be properly inserted. Speaking out against evil should be done in hopes that people will notice and avoid destructive behavior. Our actions have eternal consequences.

Christians are also to “cling” to what is good. Some have used the illustrative idea of glue to help us understand this notion: the idea is we are stuck to it and we are not going to budge. The expression “cleave to what is good” is sometimes used, and it portrays the same general idea.

From an intellectual standpoint there is nothing difficult about those concepts. Even folks who might disagree about whether some particular acts are evil or not can agree that there are some evil things in the world, and that it is wise to stay away from those things and do good, instead. Understanding the concept and putting it into action are different things.

In the remainder of Romans 12 there are several specific instructions given which are consistent with the general principle “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” It is entirely fitting that Paul include them in this discussion: they provide us practical examples and remind us that our behavior is inconsistent if we are not always clinging to what is good.

Romans 12:14 is one such example: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” When somebody mistreats us, the temptation can be very strong to retaliate with evil words. The world might even tell us that this is normal and appropriate behavior. Christians, though, are not supposed to conform to the world (Romans 12:2). Just because the majority of people around us are doing something does not mean what they are doing is right.

If we truly “abhor what is evil” then we will not do something evil in response to an evil done to us. This is perfectly consistent with Romans 12:17 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.”

What would you think if somebody told you “I hate donuts”? What would you think if you later saw that same person coming out of a donut shop with a box in one hand and a partly-eaten donut in the other? You would probably think “I guess they do not hate donuts after all!” A similar reaction would be appropriate if somebody who says they hate evil is later found engaging in evil. They have said one thing, but their behavior does not match.

Christians should not repay evil for evil because Christians are to abhor evil. We cannot, in good conscience, engage in something we profess to hate.

When this principle is clearly understood you can easily see that the remainder of the chapter is loaded with examples of that underlying principle put into action:

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:18-21 NKJV).

 

Conclusion:

Because Christians are to abhor evil and cling to what is good their way of looking at things (worldview) will often be very different from the world. Their worldview will positively impact their behavior. By consistently acting in accordance with these commands they will “have regard for good things in the sight of all men” and thus be a powerful example to others of the virtue of Christian living.

 

 

Posted in Miscellaneous

Lesson from the Flea Market

March 28, 2011

John Allan

Recently I had the opportunity to visit a local flea market. As I weaved my way up and down the different aisles of the layout I was surprised by a few things. Sometimes I was surprised by what I saw: namely older electronics for sale that made me wonder “Who would want to buy that?” At other times it was an asking price that seemed a little steep in my judgment.

One thing that really struck me was the presence of items that I remember from my childhood. They were common to me, but now there they sat with high price tags. I very specifically remember one item; it was a flour sifter that looked almost exactly like one my mother owns. The only difference I could see in the two was that my mother’s sifter is in much better condition. The one for sale at the market was one of those items priced higher than I imagined it would be worth, especially in that shape.

That flour sifter would never appeal to me at that price. Yet, for somebody who had never had the privilege it might be worth it to them. That led me to realize that the same thing might have been true for other items, too. Perhaps they were only expensive in my judgment because I already had free access to them; others who did not have that access might view that same price tag as a bargain.

I say all of that to say this: we acknowledge that the Bible as the greatest book ever written. We know deep down that no other book in the world is more important or more valuable. Yet, in spite of all the access we have to Bibles (I suspect most of our homes have at least two or three) the book is underappreciated and under-read. Meanwhile in places where the Bible is not as abundant folks treasure it and study with a diligence reflected in the worn pages and covers.

Could it actually be that our easy access to God’s word has caused us to take it for granted? Our Bibles do not belong on the shelf collecting dust or on the coffee table merely as decoration. To keep ourselves unspotted from this world (James 1:27) we need the Bible and we must appreciate its value.

-John Allan
Minister, Clinton Church of Christ

Posted in Miscellaneous

Handling the Madness

March 14, 2011

John Allan

This is the time of year the college basketball world refers to as “March Madness.” A few things come to mind that might be relevant for Christians to think about.

1. Some people will spend more time in study to fill out their tournament brackets than they spend in their Bible.

2. March is a busy month for college basketball teams: lots of travel, lots of games and little rest. Yet, all that there is to do will not keep the teams from pursuing the prize. Christians are striving for an eternal reward; life gets busy but we must not let all of that keep us from pursuing our prize.

A few things to think about as you get another work week rolling.

-John Allan
Minister, Clinton Church of Christ

Posted in Bible, Miscellaneous

Technical Difficulties

February 14, 2011

John Allan

An interesting thing happened to me this morning.

I try to write my Monday articles in time to have them posted bright and early Monday morning. However, in the hustle and bustle of Sunday I did not complete the article yesterday. I intended instead to put the finishing touches on it this morning and publish it.

This brings me back to that interesting thing that happened: the power went out this morning!

I admit, with a certain amount of shame and embarrassment, that I do not always react to unplanned disruptions well. There is a reason that I am fond of bubble wrap! Nonetheless, the reality is that things happen in life that we simply cannot foresee. We cannot control these disruptions but we can control how we react to them.

Too often in my lifetime my reaction has been poor. I’m working on it. Today an unexpected interruption produced a positive thought and hopefully something to help your perspective as it has helped mine.

How about you: How do you react when things don’t go as planned? Give it some thought.

-John Allan
Minister, Clinton Church of Christ

Posted in Miscellaneous

A friendly suggestion…

July 13, 2010

John Allan

Several weeks ago I changed my cell phone service provider. To date I have been very pleased with how well it has worked. In fact, in the past week I recommended the same service to three people.

You might be wondering, “Was it hard for you to tell others about your new service?” and I can honestly tell you it was not. In one situation the person asked for my advice and in the other two cases I found a way to slip it into a conversation I was having. Interestingly, they were not a bit offended when I did this.

Another fascinating thing about it is that it was so easy to talk about. I was not nervous at all! My familiarity with the product let me be completely at ease telling others about it. I could easily give them several reasons to consider the service even without having to think hard about it. I wasn’t even worried that I would have to use precisely the “right” words to make my point.

By now I believe you know me well enough to know I would not use a forum like this to merely talk about a cell phone. I’ll get on to my point, which is this:

When we see the value in something it becomes very easy for us to tell other people about it.

Why did I tell three people in one week about my service? I was pleased with something and wanted to tell them about it so they might enjoy the same benefits. I saw an opportunity to potentially make their life better and I took advantage of it.

As we consider being evangelistic let us not overlook the possibility that part of why we do not talk about our faith with others is because we do not see how doing so would be beneficial. Perhaps we say “he wouldn’t be interested” and let an opportunity to invite somebody to study the Bible or attend a worship service pass.

We routinely recommend things to people even though there is a possibility they will not be interested. Let us challenge ourselves to let them make that decision for themselves instead of making it for them by withholding the good news about Jesus.

Posted in Miscellaneous

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