Three Overarching Instructions (part two)

Continuing my sermon summary on Romans 12:9.  Monday I posted part one, which could be read as a stand-alone piece, but if you haven’t read part one yet, I recommend doing so before reading this.

Our text:

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

I talked of this three-fold instruction in this verse as three over-arching instructions.  The first (central) arch is sincere love, love for God and love for fellow man, flowing out of God’s love for us.  The second and third arches are to Abhor Evil and Cleave to Good.  If we love without dissimulation, hate evil, and hold to the good, everything else will fall into place.  In this post, I’d like to talk about the second arch, Abhor Evil.  In memory of my dad’s horrible tendency to pun, I’ll arbitrarily decide that it is the one on the left side, and since it deals with evil, call it the sinister arch. 😉

Abhor Evil

We are to “abhor” or hate the things that are evil.  Again, “abhor” is not a word used very often anymore, but the idea is to consider something absolutely horrible, to detest or hate it.

It has often been said, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.”  I can’t find that quote anywhere in Scripture, but certainly the two truths it contains are Biblical.  The only problem I have with the statement is that sometimes it gives an impression that sin doesn’t really matter, because God loves the sinner, anyway.  That’s not a fair picture of how much God hates sin.

God used the Greek word that means “evil” or “wicked”.  One thing that I’ve found interesting in recent years is that you can tell someone that what they are doing is bad, you can even tell them it is sin, and they might not be offended, but you certainly can’t tell them it is evil or wicked without upsetting them.  People might be ready to admit that they do some bad things, but they don’t like words that describe them as “really bad”.  God used a word that puts sin in the “really bad” category.  It is horrible, and He wants us to see it that way.

Why should we hate sin?  I see at least five reasons in Scripture to detest evil:

  • Because it is Contrary to God’s Nature.  “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5).  If we love God, we will hate that which is diametrically opposed to Him.  He is light, not darkness, and darkness has no place in HIm.  To love His light is to hate the darkness that opposes Him.
  • Because God Hates Sin.  “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Hebrews 1:8-9).  God the Son hates iniquity (sin), and this meets with the approval of God the Father.  Proverbs 6:16-19, Jeremiah 44:4, and Zechariah 8:17 are other examples of God hating evil.
  • Because Sin is Self-Destructive.  Ezekiel 18:31 says, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”  Sin leads to death (Romans 6:23), and the Scriptures are full of warnings of the natural consequences of sin.  It is easy for us to see this self-destructive aspect of sin for things like drug addiction, driving while intoxicated, etc, but the principle applies to all sin.  Eventually, it catches up with you.  Things like pornography may seem harmless at the time, but it will damage your marriage, perhaps even keep you from getting married by twisting your entire attitude and personality, and may lead to horrible addictions and perversions.
  • Because it Makes God Angry with Us.  “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).  Isaiah 66:14 and Malachi 1:4 speak of God as indignant towards sinners.  Here’s where we start to run into trouble with “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.”  It’s a true statement, but it doesn’t give the whole picture — because God’s hatred for the sin impacts our relationship with Him in very real ways.  It makes Him angry with us.  We shouldn’t think of this as God throwing a temper fit, or losing self-control.  If one of my kids wrongs one of the others, I may be quite angry about it.  I am angry at the hurt done to my other child, and I am angry that they are self-destructively damaging their relationship with a sibling.  It is an anger that flows out of my love and concern for my children, but it is still anger.  Thus is God’s anger, and it is a compelling reason for us to hate sin — it angers God.
  • Because it Creates a Barrier Between Us and God.  “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).  Our sin puts a barrier between us, so that the God who would delight in saving us, in helping us, will not do so.  Psalm 5 goes even further:  “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man” (verses 5 & 6).  Sin horribly messes up our relationship with God, to the point that the God who loves us actually hates us at the same time because of what we are doing.  The conflict is not in Him — we are the ones who are behaving in a bizarre, divided fashion, and His response of both love and hate reflects that.  We don’t like to think about this.  It’s much more pleasant to say, “God loves the sinner,” and that is true, but it is only part of the picture.

As you sit at your computer reading this today, you may look back over the last few days and say, “I’m hopeless.” The natural response of a Christian who isn’t perfect, who sins against a holy God, and who doesn’t hate evil the way God does, is horror, self-revulsion, and guilt. Even at our best, we fall far short of where we should be in our attitude towards our own sin, and the natural reaction is dismay.

That may be the natural reaction, but it isn’t the spiritual reaction.  The spiritual reaction is to look again to the Cross of Christ.  Repent and confess your sin, and then take God’s Word for it — He forgives.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

The spiritual response to our failure to abhor evil as we should is to remember God’s love!  Romans 5:8 tells us that God loved us and sent His Son to die for us when we were still sinners, going our own way, rejecting God entirely.  Does He love us any less than that now that we are trying, however imperfectly, to follow Him?

So our evil messes up our relationship with God?  Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20).  When you fail to hate evil, remember God’s love.

Furthermore, God’s love provides the greatest evidence of just how evil sin is, just how much God hates it.  God hates sin so much that He was willing to give His only Son to rescue us from sin.  The greatest evidence of God’s hatred for sin is the Cross.  The greatest evidence of God’s love for us is the Cross.

The Cross of Christ, God’s commendation of His love for us (Romans 5:8), is our greatest instructor when it comes to how we should view evil.  The Cross teaches us of the horror of evil, it teaches of God’s hatred for it, and it teaches us to hate sin, too.  It teaches us that wickedness is not invincible, despite our weakness, and that God has provided a solution.  It teaches us not to despair at our sin, for the solution to our evil sin is found in God, and not us.  It teaches us that God’s love saw our desperate evil, and has won anyway.  It teaches us that, despite the horror of what we’ve done and the terror of incurring God’s anger, despite everything, God loves us with an infinite love.

The command to “Abhor Evil” should drive us back to the Cross of Christ, back to God’s love for us.  God loves you!  Remind yourself over and over of what that means, and “abhor that which is evil” follows.  The foundation of this “arch” is the Gospel, the fact that God loves us. We can’t really understand or live this “arch” of detesting evil unless we lay the foundation of God’s love for us in Christ at the Cross.

God loves you. He sent His Son to die for you. Learn that, meditate on it, live it. God’s love is foundational. It isn’t just a neat catch-phrase. It is everything.

Navigation note:   First in the series:  “Service” in Romans 12:1;  Previous article:  Three Overarching Instructions.  Next article:  Three Overarching Instructions (part three).

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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