Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

(Romans 12:9-10, NIV)

We are blessed in Australia with some fantastic beaches. When I was growing up, we lived near the coast and a large part of my life was spent at the beach. I remember one day, after we'd been swimming for a while, my brother and I decided to climb one of the cliffs dividing the sand dunes at the back of the beach.

We'd been climbing for a while, clambering up the side, and had reached the edge of the cliff. We were fairly high up and the view was fantastic, as was the adrenaline rush of being so close to the edge. As we turned to go, we realised we were in a pretty dangerous position. In order to get to the very edge of the cliff, we had climbed down a little onto a small flat section and this meant we had to climb back upwards before we could get off the cliff.

The surface we had to climb had been affected by the salt and was so brittle, it came away in our hands. The wind had smoothed the rock and there were no bushes or hand-holds we could use. Feeling myself slipping, I called out to my brother for help but he too was barely holding on and could only turn around, his face pressed against the cliff surface while he clung on for dear life, to give me possible instructions on how to pick my way up the cliff.

An older couple walking on the sand down below saw us and asked if we needed help. For some reason, we told them we were fine and continued to inch ourselves upwards. I remember my brother holding onto the cliff and extending his hand out while I hooked two fingers into his and moved up beside him. What seemed like hours passed before we made it to a more secure patch of cliff and climbed out, making the trek back down to the beach.

In a similar way, Romans 12:9 says we are to “cling” to “what is good”. But it also says we are to hate—“hate what is evil”. This is a simple and clear command and yet one that is quite difficult. Too often we are confused about what it is to “hate” and, instead, I find myself focusing on other parts of the Christian life, such as love, encouragement and worship. It's more confusing because the idea of “evil” is not popular to our modern ears and the preaching and rhetoric around the term, “tolerance,” comes at the expense of a discussion on “hate”.

I think the emotion of “hate” is most often related to movements such as the Klu Klux Klan and the rise of the Nazi Regime. Yet to hate is the appropriate response to actions of, say, child molesters—to anything that is evil, including sin. Learning to hate comes through experience. It may seem strange, training the mind towards such a goal, yet, being caught in sin, and giving into temptation and evil, must give rise to this sort of training.

Sin, such as lust and anger, has patterns. In our minds and in our hearts, we play with sin—we mess around with it, we enjoy it and sometimes we love it. This is wrong; we are called to hate it. If we know God, who is perfect and holy and asks us to be too—if we trust in Jesus, who is our sinless saviour—then we must heed the call to “love”, the call to “cling” and the call to “hate”.

Knowing this will help us not to fall into unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving, for example,

Returning to my opening story, I'd like to make a couple of points. Firstly, find that which is good—Jesus, God's word, his people—and cling to them.

Secondly, find a brother or sister—a helping hand close by who can help pull you up to safety—to stronger ground—even if it's only with two fingers.

Thirdly, ask for, or accept, help when it is offered. Be aware; don't miss the way out that is given to you (1 Cor 10:13).

Fourthly, don't hold onto this world; it is crumbling and fading away.

Remember,

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

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Comments

As much as it is a cliche to say it, this is a very thought-provoking article Matt.

I would love to understand better what you mean when you say “asking forgiveness of God, even when I’m in the middle of sinning…”

Nice storytelling too grin

Posted by Joanna on 20 January, 2006 4:06 AM

hey joanna, i was thinking about the process of sin; temptation, capitulation, sin and often justification. I was thinking about the times I flippantly pray for forgiveness and go on sinning, rather than pray for a way out of the temptation, to truly ‘hate’ it, especially in regards to lust and anger.

Posted by Matt on 21 January, 2006 9:38 PM
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