Any patient who has undergone a bone marrow transplant knows the importance of being isolated from any possibility of infection. Because their immune system is so depleted, they are far more susceptible to disease than the average person. If a visitor arrives coughing and spluttering, excusing it as “no big deal” would be abhorrent to the patient and to their doctors. Any sickness is to be resisted like a plague because its consequences are potentially fatal.
Christian love should reflect this kind of radical mentality when it comes to evil. We cannot say that we genuinely love others if we cherish, or even only tolerate, evil in our hearts and distance ourselves from good. We cannot toy with wickedness, seeking to establish some laissez-faire approach to particular sins. “Abhor” is as strong a word as it is possible for Paul to use. He has no notion of neutrality when it comes to purity.
At the start of this verse, Paul has already instructed his readers to “let love be genuine.” Isn’t it interesting, then, that Paul immediately follows “love” with a word that essentially means “hate”? We often think that if we love, we shouldn’t hate anything or anyone—but that’s just sentimentality. Paul makes it clear that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing” (1 Corinthians 13:6). If you love your spouse with a passionate purity, you hate everything which would rob you of that relationship; otherwise, your love is not love. The same applies to our love for the things of God. We cannot love holiness without hating its opposite.
As Paul continues, he turns from the negative to the positive, using the same phrase, “hold fast,” that Jesus uses to describe a husband and wife’s relationship (see Matthew 19:5).Paul doesn’t use this phrase arbitrarily. Marriage is the closest human union possible—psychologically, intellectually, and spiritually. So Paul is saying here that Christian love should have a “superglue” commitment to goodness.
We must be careful not to fall into the world’s trap of calling “evil good and good evil” or being those “who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). God’s people understand that there is a time for love and a time for hate (Ecclesiastes 3:8). So how would you describe your attitude to evil—especially those sins that are most attractive to you or most celebrated by those who live around you? What would change if you abhorred them? Today, rely on God’s Spirit to enable you to love properly by hating what God does, echoing the prayer of John Baillie: “O God, give me the power to follow after that which is good. Now as I pray, let there be no secret purpose of evil formed in our minds, that waits for an opportunity of fulfillment.”
Temptations to Sin
42“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,7 it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell,8 to the unquenchable fire.9 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49For everyone will be salted with fire.10 50Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
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