“Detest evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
This makes me think of two scenes from two of my favorites books.
Scene 1: In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, there is a scene where Darcy is relating the sordid lifestyle of Wickham so as to dispel a rumor that Wickham is a valiant man who has been wronged by Darcy. The opposite is actually true. In fact, Darcy had been generous to a fault with Wickham, and Wickham chose a prodigal lifestyle without ever returning gratitude. In the movie, as he is telling the story, there is a scene of him walking in on Wickham, who is with a woman. And the look on Darcy’s face is one of barely being able to look at what’s happening in front of him because of how evil it is.
Scene 2: There is a scene in The Road by Cormac McCarthy when the son asks the father if they are still the good guys. The father had done something to protect them, and the son was unsure if they were still on the side of good. I’ve read this book now at least five times. Each time I am moved by this scene. In McCarthy’s nightmare, where so much evil is surrounding them and demanding things from them, this young boy is concerned about him and his father being the good guys.
I think those two scenes sum up pretty well what Paul is wanting from the Roman Christians and from us in today’s passage. Paul wants us to regard evil as though it is hard to look upon, not because we are judging people and looking down on them in their sin, but because we know the harm evil does.
This is reason Christ died: to defeat evil once and for all. We are called to detest evil—like Darcy.
Paul wants us also to cling to what is good—the way McCarthy’s boy clung to a desire to be good in the midst of a world where the darkness of evil and suffering and hurt had descended like an ever-present fog. In that scene, McCarthy’s apocalyptic world is not so different from the one we know at present. We’re called to cling to what is good.
Where do we get help to live out Romans 12:9? At the foot of the most evil act that did the most good: the Cross. The focal point of the gospel is the ultimate act of evil, and God’s ultimate act of detesting it and doing the ultimate good.
There, at the cross, sin was defeated. Above every event that ever was, this one is good beyond all human measurement. When we need help detesting evil and clinging to what is good, we can cling to the cross and hold fast.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond