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Question

What does it mean to abhor what is evil (Romans 12:9)?

abhor what is evil
Answer


In Romans 12:9–21, the apostle Paul presents a series of short exhortations that concentrate on living and loving sacrificially in every situation and in all relationships. He begins with this appeal: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9, ESV). Paul’s teaching stresses that people who overcome evil with sincere love bear the marks of a true Christian.

In the original language, the word translated as “abhor” means “to find repugnant, hate, loathe, dislike, and have a horror of.” The term for “evil” in Romans 12:9 speaks of “morally objectionable behavior.” The appropriate Christian attitude toward evil behavior is vehement opposition to the point of being horrified by it and feeling hatred toward it. As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, believers are to “reject every kind of evil.” It’s important to note that abhorring what is evil entails rejecting or hating sinful behavior. Believers are not to reject or hate sinful people who do evil, only their immoral behavior.

Through the prophet Amos, God told the people of Israel to turn away from their corrupt behavior. If they would “do what is good and run from evil,” then they would live (Amos 5:14, NLT). If they would go against the prevailing immorality—if they would hate evil behavior and instead love what is good, honest, and righteous, if they would uphold justice instead of squashing it (Amos 5:10–12)—then the Lord would be with them to defend them rather than to judge them.

God hates evil (Psalm 5:4–6; Proverbs 6:16–19). David said, “O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness; you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked” (Psalm 5:4, NLT). Because God is holy, He hates sin and wickedness.

Scripture says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), but it also teaches that “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day” (Psalm 7:11). Because God is holy (Psalm 99:9), His wrath against evil is as much a part of His character as His love. The love of God is pure and holy. The Lord loves justice, truth, righteousness, and holiness and therefore must hate wickedness, sin, and evil. If God did not abhor what is evil, He could not be a God of holy love.

Thus, those who have genuine love for God will also abhor what is evil: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 97:10).

David pledged, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it” (Psalm 101:3). When we come face to face with evil behavior, God wants us to hate it so much that we refuse to take part in it.

As we consider the things we watch on television or look at online, is there anything vile, evil, or repugnant to God? When we think about the behaviors we engage in alone or with other people, are there activities the Lord would want us to have no part in? The Bible teaches us to separate ourselves from the unclean things of the world (Isaiah 52:11; 2 Corinthians 6:17; James 4:8) and “cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God” (2 Corinthians 7:1, NLT). Our genuine love for the Lord and other people ought to motivate us in every circumstance and relationship to abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good.

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What does it mean to abhor what is evil (Romans 12:9)?
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This page last updated: May 27, 2021