The Goods of God and Man

Romans 12:9

Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil,
Cling to what is good.

I gave a talk on this verse yesterday at Sydney Uni Coptic Society, and it made me think. Allow me to share some thoughts with you.

The thing that struck me most was the command for us to be ONE, to be whole. I am not speaking about a congregation or a family being united here, I am speaking about the individual not being divided against him/herself.

The words are very strong: ABHOR … CLING – there is no wavering here! My interpretation is that St Paul is asking us, “Who are you?” What kind of a person are you? What motivates you, and what moves you? What repels you and what sets your heart on fire?

One of the main ways we define ourselves, or think about who we are, is by what we believe, what we value, or what we think to be important or true. If I try to make up a list of these values I personally hold,I wonder what they would be? Would they all fall under the category of “good”?

Of course they would! I wouldn’t hold those values unless I thought they were good … god for ME, that is. But that’s not necessarily ‘good’ in the sense St Paul was talking about. For him, ‘good’ is not what any individual thinks to be good, but what God thinks to be good, and there can be a very big difference between the two, and often is.

So to fulfil this verse, I have to find out what God thinks is good. That’s not so hard – it’s all in the Bible. What is hard is to let go of my own concept of good. A simple example:

Someone annoys me really badly.

My good: teach the idiot a lesson he’ll never forget – he deserves it, and it will make me feel so much better

God’s good: Blessed are you when men revile and persecute you … and if he strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other … do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Which one I choose out of those two determines who I am. To CLING to what is good is not easy. There are many, many forces, both within and without me, that are trying to prise me away from what is good. This verse informs me what it takes to hang on: CLING!!! Hang on tight! Never let go! Never give up! If your grip slips, clamber it back on again quick!

And on the other side of the coin: ABHOR!!! Hate! (yes, hate!) This is what hatred was made for – for things that are evil. We are not only allowed to hate evil, we are commanded to hate evil. We must hate evil. We must shun evil, and fight it and escape it with all our mind, strength, heart and soul.

To do anything less than this is to allow oneself to be a divided person. You can’t go for two goals at the same time, when they are at opposite ends of the field! You’ve got to make up your mind whose side you’re on, and then play for that side, aim for that goal.

Only then can love truly be without hypocrisy. Hypocrisy comes from a divided soul. One part of me wants to say and teach nice things. Another part of me wants to practice sins. The two cannot be in harmony. I find I have become a hypocrite.

The Teaching of the 12 Apostles (Didache) (2nd century AD) begins with the famous words:

There are two ways, one of life and one of death: but a great difference between the two ways.

And we will give the last word to Joshua:

choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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3 Replies to “The Goods of God and Man”

  1. How do we develop hatred to evil, and what if we hate something but we do it because it has become some kind of escape or fantasy….

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  2. Thanks for the page on Purity. It is not only easy to read (though it was odd that you changed from first person to third person a few times)it has lots of references.

    In regards to my earlier response, I guess the closer to God we are the more we will despise the filth of the world. You said that sin is counterfeit, a disfigurement of creation; I gather from that that if you can enjoy the originality of what is created, the less appealing the counterfeit.

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  3. I think that hatred of evil has to be happening at the most basic level of our existence or consciousness. It is a choice that we have to make, and it then influences everything else that we do.

    Beyond that, at the more superficial levels, there is the challenge of separating true good from evil dressed up as good. It is easy to be fooled!

    Fr Ant

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