Romans 12:9
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

God must really believe in us to give us three commands in one verse. As much as I have confidence in my children, I would never tell them in one breath to clean their rooms, brush their teeth, and wax the kitchen floor. I would half expect them to wax their teeth, brush their rooms, and clean the kitchen floor with toothpaste. Yet, God created us and thus knows our limitations and capabilities. He believes in us more than we do, and He expects us to carry out all three parts of Romans 12 verse 9.

1. LOVE MUST BE SINCERE

The Greek word anupokritos means “without hypocrisy (pretending; playing a part). [1] ” A stereotypical example of hypocrisy is the politician who campaigns for months on a false platform. He seems completely sincere as he kisses babies and addresses the concerns of the common people, all the while charming them with his toothsome grin. Inevitably, the disillusioned masses are later faced with the fact that they were deceived, and the empty promises were merely stepping stones towards power and greed. It’s tempting to look at the disingenuous politician and say, “Wow, at least I’m not like that phony.”

If I was the only person remaining on the face of the planet, I would be let off the Hypocritical Hook. Unless I had a personality disorder, I could always be true to myself and God in any situation. Since there are billions of other people in the world, however, hypocrisy is going to be a temptation.

I can watch my children as they learn the art of being true to oneself. The Pope could be standing in our living room, and they would still probably have temper tantrums and make some embarrassing comment about his hat. They never change who they are because they never feel the need to impress someone.

If I act differently at home, at fellowship, at work, at school, etc., then I am being hypocritical. I would have to ask, “Which one of those personalities is really mine? Will the real me please step forward?” Ideally the real me would be the one who imitates our Lord. Jesus never backed down from the truth just to please people. He endured harassment, persecution, and even torture, but he stayed true to himself and to the Word of God. He never wavered on the truth of the Word just to “feel good” or to promote himself.

1 Peter 1:22
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love (anupokritos) for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

The preceding verse links sincere love without hypocrisy to obedience to the Word. If we want to love our brothers sincerely and deeply from the heart, then our relationships have to be grounded in the truth of God. Sometimes this means taking a stand for what is right and pleasing God rather than men. We are always to love people, but it is not really “love” if our relationship involves compromising the Word or backing down from the truth. To our heavenly Father, having sincere love involves the other two commands of Romans 12:9. Even though others may be offended by the truth, we still need to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. The only standard of measurement for evil and good is the perfect Word of God.

2. HATE WHAT IS EVIL

Since I was raised to avoid the word “hate,” I began raising our own children in the same way. When reading books to them, I would replace the word with something gentler, such as “dislike.” Once Grace began to read on her own, I had to adopt plan B, which involved previewing books and ignoring them if they involved hatred of any kind. This ban even included the Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham. [2] I did not want my kids to get the idea that they could hate one of my dinners and emphatically state that they would not eat it in a box, with a fox, on a train, or in the rain.

Eventually the day arrived when I could no longer avoid the “H” word. How could I teach my children to hate what is evil, if they didn’t even understand what the word means? “Hate” is really a strong word, but that’s what is so significant about the use of this word in Romans 12:9. The Greek word used here means “to shudder with horror.” [3] We use the word so casually in conversations, such as “I hate seafood,” but I have never shuddered with horror at the sight of lobster bisque.

When God tells us to hate evil, He doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye from it or fast forward through it. He wants us to purge it from our hearts, minds, and homes. If we only “dislike” something evil or shake our heads in disbelief, it is like standing still–we go nowhere and accomplish little for our Lord. When we run in the opposite direction from evil, we can then sprint toward what is good.

3. CLING TO WHAT IS GOOD

Before I had kids, there were four types of “clinging” that were familiar to me:

1) Static cling (what happens when you fail to add fabric softener to the laundry).
2) Saran Wrap (unless you buy the cheap stuff).
3) Koala bears (how they keep from falling off the tree).
4) Insecure women (how they cause boyfriends to break up with them).

Then I had my first baby, and I learned how limited the scope of my understanding was when it came to the word “cling.” If the Bible elaborated on Romans 12:9, it could say, “cling to what is good…like a baby clings to his mama,” and that would live for me. I could make dinner surrounded by a field of static cling, Saran Wrap, koala bears, and insecure women–but a clinging baby? Now THAT was a challenge.

No one ever told me that when you gain a baby you lose an arm and a leg. I discovered that very quickly, however, when I was holding a clingy baby and trying to cook dinner with my left elbow. Later on, I experienced the koala bear-on-the-tree phenomenon when my toddler was having a temper tantrum and clinging to my leg. So when God says to CLING to what is good, it now brings a whole new meaning. He’s not implying that we merely LIKE or ENJOY things that are good, but that we adhere to them.

Kollao, the Greek word for cling, means “to stick like glue or cement.” [4] Have you ever walked around with static cling on your pants or skirt and looked like you were in a wind tunnel? Someone once told me to spray static guard on the area, but then I basically had wet static. Have you ever had so much lint stuck to your clothes that you could use it to knit together a matching scarf? Someone once told me to use a lint brush to remove the lint, but after using an entire brush on one square inch of lint, I decided just to throw the outfit away. The world, led by the Devil, is constantly baraging us with “static guard and lint brushes,” trying desparately to prevent us from sticking to the Word. We have to make sure that they are as ineffective as the real stuff.

We need to cling to God and His Word like superglue. When our children made Valentines Day cards last year, I bought an economical glue that was safe for kids. They quickly became frustrated by how quickly the cheap glue came undone. We learned what I called “The Elmer’s Principle:” glue may stick to your hands and your carpet, but not to whatever you need fastened. On the contrary, people have to go to the emergency room to remove superglue from fingers that have stuck together. If we are truly clinging to the Word, nothing will separate us–not people, temptations, trials, nor any cares of this world.

CONCLUSION

The basic principles of Romans 12:9 are:

1) Don’t be phony.
2) Be true to yourself and others.
3) Genuinely hate evil with a visceral disgust.
4) Cling to the things that are good–God, Jesus, and the Word–like a baby clings to his mama.

Notice that God is the perfect embodiment of Romans 12:9. He is so sincere in His love that He gave up His only Son for the whole world (John 3:16). God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34) and does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). He tells us in Proverbs 8:13 that “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Finally, He gives us the standard of clinging:

Romans 8:38 and 39
(38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
(39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now that’s what I call static cling!

Endnotes

[1] Bullinger, E.W., A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979, p. 392.
[2] Seuss, Dr., Green Eggs and Ham, Random House, New York, NY, 1960.
[3] Bullinger, p. 18.
[4] Ibid. p. 155.

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