ďThe First VirtueĒ†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† November 11, 2012

Romans 12:9

 

This fall and winter weíre looking in detail at one chapter in the Bibleó

†† Romans 12.Itís a chapter about the practical side of the Christian life.

This is how we are to live in view of the mercies of God.

 

Verse 9 marks a development in Paulís thought.

So far heís told us how we are to relate to Godóoffer bodies as living sacrifices.

Heís told us how to relate to ourselves, identityómembers of the body of Christ.

†† Given gifts of speaking and serving for the benefit of others.Not lone rangers.

Now, from this point on he tells us how to relate to other people.

†† First, how we are to relate to other believers.

†† Then, how we are to relate to those outside, particularly enemies.

 


 

INTRO:There was an old beer commercial that was very popular in its dayó

†† you might remember it.

It starts out with a grown man and his father sitting on a pier fishing together.

†† The man says:Dad, I have something important I need to tell you.

†† His voice is heavy with emotion, soft music is playing.

The elderly father says:What is it, son?

†† His facial expression says that he thinks there is about to be a very significant

†† revelation, something deeply moving is about to pass between them.

The grown son says:

†† Dad, youíre my dad (tears spring to his eyes) and I love you, man!

Right away the soft music stops, the father puts a protective hand on his beer can,

†† and he says:Jimmy, youíre not getting my Bud Lite.

 

Would the Apostle Paul have chuckled at that ad?I donít know.

†† But he would have understood the premise, because he says:

†† ďLove must be sincere.Ē

In the Greek text, this word translated ďsincereĒ is an-u-pok-ri-tos.

†† The latter part of which has given us the word hypocritical.

Way back in ancient Greece, hypocrite was first a term used in the theatre.

†† In Greek theatre, the actors would wear masks.

These masks would communicate emotions to the audience.

There was a mask that said:I am sad.I am angry.I am happy.I am worried.

†† Even today, the symbol of theatrical arts are the comedy and tragedy masks.

 

Those mask wearers were called hypocrites.

That term eventually came to means what it does today.

†† A hypocrite is one who wears a mask.

†† A hypocrite is one whose speech or actions are insincere.

Paul says, love must be sincere, without hypocrisy, without masks.

 

But hereís the thing, everybody believes that at some level.††

You could interview random people across America, not just Christians but

†† agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and ask them:

†† Should love be sincere?Yes.Should love be hypocritical?No.

Even Joe Six-Pack gets that.Thatís why the Bud Lite commercial worked.

†† Everybody knows at some level that love must be sincere.

Itís wrong to tell someone you love him or her to get something.

Itís wrong to do things for someone to appear to be loving,

†† when you really donít love the person at all in your heart.Everybody gets that.

That raises the question:What is uniquely Christian about this statement by Paul?

Remember the purpose of Romans 12.

†† Paul is telling Christians how we are to live in view of the mercies of God.

If weíve been saved by grace through faith in Christ, delivered from hell and

†† wrath and saved for a new life with God and destined for heaven, then we must

†† live in a way that is fundamentally different from the world.

 

How should the sincerity of our love be different?

†† What is this sincere love that is a response to the mercies of God in Christ?

For most people, sincere love simply means that you speak and act with genuine

†† feelings of affection in your heart.You donít have ulterior motives, arenít trying

†† to manipulate or get something from the person.

Thatís certainly true.But Paul doesnít say:Love must be sincere.

†† Have affectionate feelings in your heart, donít say or do things you donít mean.

 

Instead he says:Love must be sincere.Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.

James Montgomery Boice, who was the pastor of 10th Pres in Philadelphia,

†† was no slouch when it came to Greek New Testament, PhD in NT.

He says that these words hate and cling are linked grammatically to love sincerely.

†† So Paulís point is that this is what sincere love isó

†† itís hating evil and clinging to good.Itís discriminating.It makes judgments.

 

Verse 9 marks a development in Paulís thought.

So far heís told us how we are to relate to Godóoffer bodies as living sacrifices.

Heís told us how to relate to ourselves, identityómembers of the body of Christ.

†† Given gifts of speaking and serving for the benefit of others.Not lone rangers.

Now, from this point on he tells us how to relate to other people.

†† First, how we are to relate to other believers.

†† Then, how we are to relate to those outside, particularly enemies.

 

The pattern for all relationships, for all our dealings with people is sincere love.

†† And he says that there are these two marks of sincere loveó

†† hating evil and clinging to good.

Sincere love makes judgments about good and evil in the lives of people.

†† How do we work that out with the real people God brings into our lives,

†† especially other Christians, which is where Paul starts. Three points:

1.Sincere love hates what is evil.

2.Sincere love clings to what is good.

3.Where you get the ability to love this way.

MP#1Sincere love hates what is evil.

You canít help being jarred by this verse.Paul says:Love must be sincere.

†† Then his very next word is ďhate.ĒHow do you put love and hate together?

†† Itís difficult.This is a very complicated teaching of Scripture.

 

Love is such a fundamental aspect of Godís character that Bible says God is love.

The reason God is love is because God is triune, he is a Trinity.

†† God eternally exists in three personsóFather, Son and Holy Spirit.

The eternal relationship between the persons of the Godhead is one of perfect love.

†† And it was out of that love that God made the world, and, as the Bible saysó

†† he loves everything that he has made.

Thatís where we start, with the love of God as his fundamental character.

 

But the Scripture also tells that God hates.He hates sin and evil.

Proverbs 6óThere are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:haughty

†† eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet

†† that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up

†† dissension among brothers.

Did you notice something about that list?Itís not just evil actions God hates,

†† he says he hates the witness who lies, he hates the man who stirs up dissension.

 

There is the popular saying that God hates the sin but loves the sinner.

†† That is a very helpful saying, a lot truth in it, but itís not the whole story.

Sometimes Godís hatred extends to people.But the Bible says God so loved world.

†† Yes, it says that too.I told you this topic of Godís love and hatred is complicated.

 

There are many times in Scripture where the Lord speaks to his church and tells

†† them that he hates what they are doing.Hates their insincere worship.

Isa 1óStop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.I cannot bear

your evil assemblies.Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates.

Amos 5óI hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.

 

In the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ is speaking to the church of Ephesus.

†† He reprimands them very strongly for forsaking their first love.

†† Youíve got to repent of that lack of love or Iím going to take away lampstick.

But then Christ says:There is one thing I want to commend you for.

†† You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans which I also hate.

†† Nicolaitians were a group in the church who advocated immorality.

Hereís the point:Jesus Christ commended the Ephesian church for hatingó

†† particularly for hating the evil practices of a group in the church.

Ask most people the opposite of love, and they would say hate.

But the true opposite of love is indifference.

†† If God did not care what happened to his creation, if he did not care how people

†† mistreat people, he would not hate false witnesses, men who stir up dissension.

Even though this is a very difficult subject to get a handle on and express clearly,

†† I think that all of us understand it at a basic level.

 

If someone you loved very much, your child, for example, was doing something

†† that was destroying himself, or destroying other people, you would hate that evil.

If he was using drugs, if it was robbing him of lifeóyou would hate it.

†† And if your child became drug pusher, destroying other souls, and if you looked

†† at him and saidóI hate what you have becomeóthat would be love talking.

 

Iíve shared this illustration with you before.Years ago I got a letter from a little

†† church out in the county that started a drug rehab program.

Trying save people trapped by meth.Said, we arenít asking for money, for prayer.

†† Pray that many people would be saved from drugs through ministry.

†† Pray that the meth makers will be saved too, but if not, that will be destroyed.

Thatís sincere love hating evil.

 

Hereís the hard thing though.

†† How do you love this way in the church?With your brothers and sisters.

†† Thatís Paulís context.Very next line:Let brotherly love continue.

How do you make judgments about sin and evil in lives of other Christians?

†† Obviously, silence is not an option.Indifference or fear is not love.

 

This verse hit me hard, because Iíve gotten this wrong so many times.

†† Iíve hated evil but it was not out of sincere love.Two thoughts came to me.

First, when it comes to loving people in the church sincerely and hating their evil,

†† treat them the same way you treat yourself.

Se, if you have any Christian conscience at all, things you hate about yourself.

†† You hate your envy, your lust, your pride.

†† You hate the lies youíve told, the people youíve hurt, the sexual sins committed.

 

And yet, you love yourself.You want the best for yourself.You want God

†† to forgive you and change you.You want him to give you another chance.

You donít want him to drag your sins out in the open and shame you.

†† You want God to treat you gently, and yet you want him to deal with your sins.

†† You donít want to be stuck where you are.You want to be free of these things.

I would simply suggest that this is a way for us to think about each other.

Here is a brother or sister in the church.I love him.I love her.

†† I hate this evil I see in his or her life.

†† Now, how do I treat my own evils?With love.

†† How do I want God to deal with me?In love.

Working out the details is hard.Easy to make mistakes.

†† But much more likely to love sincerely if keep in mind.

††

Second thought is this:Paul says hate what is evil.

†† He doesnít say, hate what is weak.Hate what is irritating.

Weak and irritating things might be evil, but probably arenít,

†† at least not among your brothers and sisters in the church.

†† Evil implies a hardness, a resistance to Godís law and grace.

Be very sure you are dealing with evil before you hateónot just the weaknesses

†† and irritations and feather ruffling that goes on in the body.

 


 

Brings us to the second point, the positive one.

MP#2Sincere love clings to what is good.

So what does it mean that sincere love clings to what is good.

 

It means first of all that love clings to what is good for the other person.

†† You stick with it, hope for it, pray for it.If appropriate, tell him or her about it.

†† This is the good I want for you.This is the good God wants for you.

†† This is what Iím praying for you.

When you love someone, you want him or her to be happy, blessed, fulfilled.

†† Thatís easy to do when itís someone you are naturally close to, someone

†† you find easy to love.Itís a lot harder when someone struggle to love.

Itís hardest of all when itís an enemy.Will get to that later in chapter.

 

But clinging to what is good also means holding on to and believing in the

†† good you see in the other person, and sometimes even good you canít see.

Remember, Paul is addressing first our relations with other believers.

Sincere love clings to what is good in the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ.

†† There is that wonderful line in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, that says:

†† Love hopes all thing and believes all things.

That is not saying that love is naive.

†† That you are a loving fool who believes whatever anybody says to you.

†† But it does mean that you hope for the best, you believe what is best.

And in the context of church life, it means that you believe the Holy Spirit at work.

When you see little, tiny evidences of God at work in a person, you cherish them.

†† You realize that they are evidence of something huge, spiritual life.

And related to that, you look for and believe the best possible motive for the

†† actions of your brothers and sisters, even if motives mixed,

†† even if a conversation or confrontation poorly executed.

 

You all know that in my sermons I almost never tell stories about people in church.

†† Iíll mention funny things, but never serious matters, private conversations.

Iím stunned when sometimes hear preachers in larger churches say things like:

†† A church member came to see me this week to talk about his marriage problems.

†† You can imagine people perking up, hoping for some incriminating detail.

I can imagine the poor soul shrinking in his pew.

 

But I do want to tell you something that happened a few years ago with some

†† Christ Covenant folks.Going to change certain details, so donít try to figure out.

†† Be encouraged and instructed by this example of sincere love.

A couple asked to speak to me about a conflict they had had with another member.

†† They were angry and upset by some things this person had said.

†† The comments had come in the form of a criticism.

They did not agree with the criticism, but more than that, did not appreciate

†† the way it was said.They felt there was a wall now between them.

†† And made them uncomfortable at thought of encountering person at church.

 

My first inclination was to say:You just have to go and talk to person, work out.

†† But they asked for my help, and that didnít seem very helpful.

†† Highlights of the conversation went like this.

Do you love this person?Consider a sister or brother in Christ.

†† Yes, of course.Have absolutely no doubts this is a fellow Christian.

 

This thing this person said to you, do you believe it was a sin?

Was it breaking one of the Ten Commandments?

†† Or was it more a case of sinful people rubbing each other wrong way.

They thought, and said.It bothered us very much, but canít honestly call a sin.

†† It was like you said:It was sinful people rubbing each other the wrong way.

Well, I said, you can talk to the person if you want.Might clear the air.

†† But Proverbs says it is a wise manís glory to overlook an offense.

†† You can overlook this in love.They seemed surprised they could do that.

Said that was exactly what wanted to do.Talked about what that would look like.

†† How to greet person in a cordial manner.

 

Then I asked them something like:Why did this person say these things?

†† What was the motivation?Do you think it was to hurt you?

†† Do you think it was out of some kind of bitterness or malice?

They said:No.When you put that way, the motive was probably a good one.

†† This person was concerned about us, didnít express himself well at all.

 

So we looked at that verse in 1 Cor. 13, love hopes all things and believes all things.

†† We talked about what that means in the church.

†† That we believe the Holy Spirit is at work.That we cling to what is good.

And hereís what happened.They got it.

†† They agreed that they would cling to what is good, and believe the Holy Spirit

†† is at work, and move ahead in love.I left that meeting praising God.

I know that there are other situations in the church that are much more difficult.

†† Cases where there are destructive sins and even evidence of hard heart.

†† And yet here was sincere loveóloving by making careful judgments.

In this case, having the maturity to say:

†† This was a matter of weakness and irritation, not evil and sin of the sort

†† that needs confrontationóbut something that can be overlooked in love

And the maturity to cling to what is good.

†† To believe that deep down, this fellow Christian motivated by love himself,

†† and wanting the bestóeven if he didnít express it in the best way.

 

Charles Simeon, evangelical Anglican minister, late 1700s, early 1800s.

†† As a young minister, he could be harsh and self-assertive.Once he preached in an

†† older ministerís church.Went home with the pastor after and ate with the family.

After Simeon had left, the pastorís daughters complained about his manner.

†† They were standing in the back yard and their father said, pick me a peach.

†† Daughters said:Why do you want a peach?Green and unripe.

He said:Itís green now, but a little more sunshine, a few more showers, and it will

†† be ripe and sweetóand so it will be with Mr. Simeon.

 

Simeon was sent by his bishop to a church in Cambridge because

†† the bishop knew that this church needed revival, the Gospel and sound preaching.

The church members hated Charles Simeon.Hated his preaching and message.

†† In that church, pews were rented by families, little gates at end of each pew.

†† Majority locked pews, so people who attended had to stand in aisles.

 

That disdain for Simeon passed from church people to Cambridge students.

†† You know how college boys areóSimeon became fair game.

†† They would mock him in streets and disrupt church services.

To make a long story shortóHe persevered and the church had a glorious revival,

†† and he had a profound impact on several generations of Cambridge students.

†† I tell you that whole story so that this next detail will be meaningful.

 

Simeonís ďRules for myselfĒ Written inside the cover of his Bible.

1. To hear as little as possible what is the prejudice of others;

2. To believe nothing of the kind till I am absolutely forced to it;

3. Never to drink into the spirit of one who circulates an ill report;

4. Always to moderate, as far as I can, the unkindness which is expressed toward others;

5. Always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter.

 

Thatís sincere love.Thatís clinging to what is good.

†† Thatís a Christian man responding to the mercies of God.

What if we loved each other that way at all times?What a sweet place!

Brings to the last point, and this will be brief, really my conclusion.

MP#3Where do you get the ability to love sincerely?

And not just the ability, the desire, the perseverance, the wisdom?

†† Do you see how huge and impossible this is?

 

To sincerely love by hating evil in the person.

†† Not ignoring out of indifference or fear, and at the same time communicating

†† genuine love and concern?What sinful man is able to do such a thing.

To sincerely love by clinging to the good in the person.

†† Even if there is very little good to be seen.

 

Hereís the answeró

You can love sincerely because the Lord loves you sincerely.

†† This is how he loves youówith a discriminating love

He hates, he hates with the purest hatred what is evil in you.

†† He hates your lies and impurity and selfishness.

 

In fact, Jesus hates it so much, that he made the greatest sacrifice to deal with your

evil forever.He died for you so that by his death, you could die to sin.

When you understand how much he hates your evil, it will cause you to hate

†† the remaining sin in yourself, and that is the only thing that will rightly empower

†† you and motivate you to address the sin in your brothers and sisters lovingly.

 

And Jesus clings to, he clings to the good that is in you.

†† If the goodness in you is like a hard, green, bitter peach.

†† He knows that peach got there by the work of his Holy Spiritó

†† and that it will come to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.

And it is only that knowledge of Jesus Christís smile upon you, and his

†† delight in even the smallest fruit in your life, that will cause you to look for

†† and cherish and cling to and protect the tender shoots of goodness in the

†† lives of your brothers and sisters.

 

This takes a lifetime to work outóand this is the laboratory in which it happensó

†† in the church, the body of Christ.

Friends:In view of Godís mercies love must be sincereó

†† hate what is evil, cling to what is good.