Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Romans 12: 9

 

On the surface, this seems like a simple idea. Most people would accept it as valid. It is not connected to culture, history, or even to personal faith. Yet, the practice of living suggests that what is understood by the concepts of good and evil varies greatly among people, and what it means to love seems to change from time to time and from person to person with the sort of speed that a ceiling fan on high exhibits. Still, understanding love would seem to lead to grasping how to sort out good and evil so that good is embraced and evil is pushed away. But still, seemingly good intentioned people do evil deeds, and love that is all-consuming one day turns to animosity with the next dawn.

 

There would seem to be something amiss in the way that many of us are going about this thing that we can call loving. Perhaps we are confusing a passionate drive to please and to satisfy ourselves with love? Maybe it is time to carefully and prayerfully seek some sound and wise counsel on love and about entering into loving. I am suggesting that this world, our culture, and even the best of our personal experiences fall short in demonstrating and in promoting this form of love that is genuine; that is one that is real, unchanging, faithful, and all-encompassing. This is the love that God has for His creation. This is the love that Christ has demonstrated to us, and this is the love that is poured out upon us by the presence of Christ’s Spirit with us.

 

Christ’s love removes hate as it eliminates power and difference. This is a love that willingly sacrificed all in order to perfect its authority over all that is evil in this world. It is in this genuineness that Christ’s love enjoys this ultimate victory over evil and all of its ramifications. This is the love that Christ seeks for each of us to embrace so that we will think and act ever more like He did and as God wills for His people to do. Genuine love seeks to mend broken relationships, sets aside bias and fear in order to truly know people, clearly speaks truth with the intention to redeem that which is lost, and continually submits itself to Christ and to God’s word of truth. In these ways the genuine love that is Christ sets His people apart from our world and leads us to be defined by eternally formed good that we cling to with all of our being.

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Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Romans 12: 9

 

This short verse contains three very strong words. The first of those is genuine. It comes from the same root word as does hypocrisy, and it conveys much the same idea. Christ loves us in a manner that is without protective shell, is beyond condition, and is totally committed. We have a natural tendency to get in our own way when it comes to loving in this manner. Our fears and distrust make us withhold ourselves; so, we become actors in a theater of life production rather than being people who give ourselves fully and honestly to the relationships that God brings our way.

 

Next and related to this first idea is the one of abhorring evil. This is a word that literally means “to shudder with horror or hate”. This is that strong reaction that seems to come over a person without warning when something so powerfully wrong is seen and the body just reacts with a reflexive shake, sigh, and tightening of the muscles. Unfortunately, our world is so filled with evil that we get to be insensitive to it. So the Holy Spirit of Christ works to point it out to us. He keeps us sensitive to its presence and calls His people to engage with its sources so that love is not crushed and buried under evil’s debris.

 

Paul then tells us that as a result of embracing genuine love and responding to the evil of this world with a Christ-like sacrificial zeal we are to also “hold fast to what is good.” This is the same word as is used to describe the bond of husband and wife in marriage, which we often hear expressed as “cleave”. We are to be glued to and bonded with what is good. This reality in life starts with Christ as the author and keeper of goodness. It continues in our relationship with God that is made alive in our engagement with this world as defined for us and guided by God’s word and the Holy Spirit. So, genuine love leads us into Christ’s abhorrence of evil with its destructive nature, and all of this is given focus and balance by being wedded to the goodness that is God.

 

 

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Romans 12: 9

 

 

God looks at the way that we deal with the personal integrity issue of truth telling, and He tells us to do it like He does. I know from experience, experiences that are especially true during times when I have been trying to delude myself, that the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart and to my mind in ways that are honest and accurate and in ways that can knock me to my knees when needed. He also speaks the most uplifting words of praise, recognition, and encouragement. God is the creator of the concept of truth, He is the source of all that is true, and He always tells the truth.

 

As we are called to live in the righteousness of Christ, we are directed to treat truth in the same manner. Yet, notice that there is a striking balance in this verse. Godly genuineness is found in that balance. The human tendency can be to define “telling the truth” as always pointing out the sin, the error, or the failing in the lives of others, and that is partially true. The challenge that most of us face in the actual practice of this sort of truth telling comes in loving the recipient of this truth with the absolute and tangible love of Christ during the process. As I have experienced as both a giver and a recipient of such truth, we are less likely to define truth telling as always seeking to see the good, which is the Godlikeness, in those around us.

 

Therefore, God tells us to love others by telling them the truth. This is the truth as the Spirit of Christ shows it to us and as His word reveals it to us. Truth is also expressed by seeing, encouraging, and embracing the beauty of Christ’s love that we see alive in others. In order to live with the type of personal integrity that comes from the Creator of Truth, we need to do all of these things equally, with balanced perspective. In order to love in the total and genuine manner that God does we need to imitate Jesus and detest the sin that crushes the life out of people while never hating the person. Christ calls us to hold on tightly to all of the good that we can find in others and encourage its growth, just like He does.