Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
The use of the term agape love was very rare in the cultures of Paul’s day. This type of love- giving, generous, self-sacrificing- was even viewed by many if not most as a sign of weakness. But in the New Testament, as MacArthur comments, it was regarded as the supreme virtue.
God Himself is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him, (1 John 4:16). Evil is the exact opposite of this supreme love, and, therefore, the opposite of and against the Lord God. Thus, believers are to abhor what is evil.
Any Christian who genuinely loves God and people will also hate evil. Thus, the Psalmist exhorts, Hate evil, you who love the Lord, (Psalm 97:10). In Psalm 101:4, David intends that a perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil. Evil is that which aligns itself against the Almighty. It desires its own selfish will rather than God’s, and is fully intent on doing all that is unrighteous and ungodly.
Even Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, struggled with sin. We covered these struggles in Romans chapter 7. Sense his mighty inner battle here: I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate…For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good, (Rom. 7:14-15, 19-21).
Jude warns us that we can get sucked into the sins of others if we are not extremely careful: But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh, (Jude 20-21, 23).
It has been said that the only security against sin is to be shocked by it. It is very hard to be shocked by anything in our generation. Our senses are constantly bombarded “through TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, and books, not to mention the internet and social media, with immoralities,” (Mac), perversions, violence, hatred, and on and on.
The danger is in rationalizing that all this evil somehow doesn’t affect us, that because we belong to Jesus we are immune. It just isn’t true! To think so and to be careless with our purity is to court evil. Sin lieth at the door, (Genesis 4:7).
MacArthur quotes Alexander Pope:
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
Paul warned the Corinthian church, who by all standards resided in “sin city,” to flee sexual immorality and idolatry, which were so rampant there. Evil is never to be accepted, condoned, reasoned with. Don’t try to convert it or change it. Flee from it into the protective arms of God as righteous Lot fled from the destruction of Sodom. His wife, who, for an instant, looked back, was turned into a pillar of salt, (Genesis 19:26).
Paul counsels his son in the faith, Timothy, to Flee youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart, (2 Tim. 2:22).
MacArthur teaches, “It is impossible to pursue righteousness while we tolerate evil,” (Commentary p. 187). Mac tells the story of how to boil a frog. Put the frog in a pan of cool water. Turn the flame on low. As the heat slowly rises in the water, the frog adjusts, tolerating the changing norm. By the time the water reaches boiling the frog realizes too late that he is in big trouble. That slow burn will ultimately destroy! Tolerating evil works the same way!
“Greater exposure to evil should invoke greater resistance to it, no matter how often or how intensely we are confronted by it. We must examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good [and] abstain from every form of evil, (1 Thess. 5:21-22). Because we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), we must, like Him, love righteousness and hate sin (Heb. 1:9). We are to love what He loves and hate what He hates,” (Mac p. 187).
We believers are to also cling to what is good. This is the third personal duty. The verb, kallao, Mac notes, means to cling. It is from the root, kolla, which means glue. It could be used of any bond-spiritual, emotional, physical- and, in this context tells us that we are to bind ourselves like glue (a permanent bond) to what is good (agathos), that which is inherently right and worthy.
Have you ever watched a young child walking hand and hand with his parent? The child may wriggle and squirm, using his whole body in motion to try to dislodge his hand from his guardian’s grasp, to gain his “freedom.” We must not be so. The Lord has us firmly in His loving grip. Don’t squirm to get away; it is the safest place we could possibly be.
So how would we define what is good? …whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on [or cling to] these things, (Phil. 4:8).
All of this takes discernment, godly judgment based on careful evaluation of everything so that we know what to reject and what to cling to, (Mac). As we reject the world and its values our minds become transformed by being renewed, so that we may cling to that which is good and acceptable and perfect, (Rom. 12:1-2).
“As we separate ourselves from the things of the world and saturate ourselves with the Word of God, the things that are good will more and more replace the things that are evil” (Mac p. 188).
Until next time, by God’s profound grace, may the Lord bless you as you live out your faith by holding fast to His holy hand…mike.