Abhor that which is evil
Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Romans 12:9b
Note the contrast – love of the brethren (9a) and hatred of evil (9b). Love is not real if it is not accompanied by an abhorrence of sin. We are told to abhor sin; this is important. Paul does not merely tell us to abstain from evil but to abhor it. We must love the good and hate the evil. I think one of the reasons why we so often have a hard time in expunging bad habits is that we focus only on the habit itself without seeking the heart change without which the habit will not go away. It’s like pulling a sticker plant without getting at the root. If you don’t turn your heart against the sin in your life, you are never going to fight it successfully. Men who are mired in pornography stay that way if they never learn to detest it and hate it. As long as it appears attractive to you, you are going to keep going back to it.
But how to you learn to hate what you once loved? You do so by loving its opposite. This is what Thomas Chalmers meant when he talked about “the expulsive power of new affections.” And this is why Paul doesn’t only say, “Abhor what is evil,” but follows it up with “hold fast to what is good.” This is very similar to a word that Paul uses in Eph. 5:31 with reference to the marriage relation. Just as a husband is to cleave to his wife, the saint is to cleave to and love and delight in holiness and good. And of course what ought to make holiness so attractive to the believer is the fact that holiness is one of the key attributes of the Lord who saves us. We love him, and loving him we love what characterizes him, and that means loving holiness.
This is an especially necessary exhortation in our time and culture. We live in a time and place that embraces evil (cf. 12:2), and it is easy to end up adopting our culture’s stance towards evil without even realizing it. If there has ever been a time when the church needs to hear the call to holiness, it is now!