Friday, September 23

Get a Grip

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

Paul gives this very concise directive in his letter to the Roman church. Love must be sincere. Earnest. Unadulterated.

Although the following story of the origin of the word "sincere" is historically inaccurate, it serves to provide a good picture of what the word means.

According to popular legend, less-than-reputable Roman quarrymen would sometimes cut corners by applying a thick coating of shiny wax to marble. They did this rather than taking the time to polish it properly in order to remove visible surface scratches and imperfections. So widespread was this shysterly practice, it is said, that honest stoneworkers took to advertising their wares as being sine cera (i.e. without wax) in order to gain the confidence of their customers. As as result, "sincere" gradually came to be used more generally to mean "honest" and "straightforward."

Aside from this alleged origin of the word, what should our understanding be of what it means to love sincerely? Paul provides the answer in the next part of verse 9. We are told to hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

In order to cling to what is good, we need to grip it tightly with not just one hand, but with both so as not to let go of it easily. In clinging to what is good, we are essentially keeping our hands full and therefore unavailable for anything else. But what is this "good" that we are holding with our kung-fu grip?

Anything good is anything that comes from God. Consider this verse along with the discussion of God and love found in the book of 1st John, particularly chapter 4. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God. God is love personified. He is the epitome and the embodiment of love. When we cling to Him, we are tapped into the source of real love. The moment we loosen our grip on love and good, we risk being influenced by evil.

We are told to hate what is evil. Hate is an emotion so strong that it demands action. It carries with it the desire to remove, restrict, destroy or otherwise obliterate its object. Although we would like to take such action into our own hands so to speak, we need to remember that our hands should already be committed to clinging to that which is good. Only God has the power to act on evil to eradicate it, but this will not be accomplished in full until a later time.

In the meanwhile, as we maintain our firm grip on the goodness of God and spend our time deepening our ability to love sincerely, God is at work in us as He furthers His plan to wipe out evil. We are to hate that which is evil, but concentrate our actions and efforts on clinging to what is good.

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