Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Imagine for a moment someone you love speaking this verse to you; carefully and lovingly, not rushing or reading a list, but focusing upon each thought. These and the next few verses in Romans 12 present a picture of who we are to be. They identify the attributes that must characterize our very being. We get to discover what they each mean and partner with the Holy Spirit to work them out fully in our lives.
Today’s verse raises all manner of questions:
- What exactly is this love that must be sincere? Is it feelings? Is it actions? How do we know that what we think is Godly love, really is? Does God’s word define it for us?
- What exactly does it mean for that love, whatever it is, to be sincere?
- What is evil? Are God and the world (our culture) on the same page when it comes to identifying evil? Where do we look to find out? Might we consider something okay that God considers evil? What does it mean to hate evil?
- What exactly is ‘good’? Who defines what is good? How does one cling to what is good?
The point that I’m getting at is that we must be careful not to use worldly wisdom in determining the answers. Here are two other versions of today’s verse to give us some additional insight – and also raise some more questions:
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.” (The Message)
“[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good.” (Amplified)
Do we ‘run’ for dear life from evil? Do we ‘loathe all ungodliness; turn in horror from wickedness’? Picture the contrast of being around someone wearing delightful cologne, where the fragrance is attractive and draws a response of “oooh, I like that!” – and being around someone with body odor that makes us move away, it repels us.
How do we do these things in a way that honors God; in a way that attracts people to God rather than repelling them from us. Jesus spent a lot of his time with sinners. He demonstrated that there is a way to hate sin and love the sinners.
Each phrase contains treasure to dig for – to pursue and discover the richness they hold. They are guiding principles and qualities that we must have in our lives in order to be the men and women that God has chosen and destined us to be.