I have read this verse before without stopping to ponder the beginning of the passage. “Let Love…. Abhor what is Evil; cling to what is good.” Since God is Love, 1 John 4:8, hating evil makes sense; God opposes the evil forces in our world. Yet how do love and abhorring evil function in our homes? This is a vital question for parents and grandparents to consider, as I have seen situations where the hatred of evil damaged relationships with kids and grandkids.
Abhorring evil is loving. The love we have for others leads to care and compassion and we do not want to see anyone harmed. We hate evil because it leads to harm. We hate it because of the harm it causes and if we love like the Lord.
This is where Jesus’ love is so powerful. Because He is God, Jesus hates and opposes evil but does not do harm to those trapped in difficult situations. Whether it is with the woman at the well who was trapped in immorality, or the rich young man who loved money, the root of all evil, or the disciples squabbling over who was the greatest, Jesus’ approach was loving, caring and compassionate.
I have found that a focus on sin and evil can lead to fear and overreaction when we are confronted with evil having a foothold in our kids’ or grandkids’ lives. I know that my desire to protect my kids early on and prevent evil from taking hold in their lives led to reactions and forms of discipline that damaged them. That was the inverse of what we see with Jesus.
The rich young ruler was not damaged but left with a hard decision. The adulterous woman was not stoned but protected and given a reason to take her life in a different direction. None of those people left hurt, angry or damaged by Jesus’ confronting evil in their lives.
Jesus’ love and compassion for the plight of his sheep did not dilute His hatred of evil that entangled them; He addressed the evil in a way that led sinners to seek Him rather than hide their sin from Him. He hated the evil that was deceiving them. It was Jesus’ encompassing love and its abhorrence of evil that caused Him to bring up issues, yet His love and compassion led to an approach that opened the hearts and eyes of those He sought to help.
We can hate the evil but address it in a loving manner, because love in itself is “the boundary.” It does no harm or punishment, but seeks to bring about the best for another person. Love is directly opposed to evil and harm making it the most powerful boundary of all. Modeling and training our kids in this kind of love is not license to sin but an antidote for sin. When our kids find the freedom of our unconditional love and kind approach on a consistent basis, they find the ability to begin to love themselves which leads them to want to do no harm to themselves or those around them.
Jesus’ example of love is clear. Whether with the woman at the well or the rich young man, Jesus exposed evil lovingly and left them with a choice to pursue a new path rather than continue on one of evil and harm. Their new path would help them love themselves by doing no more harm to themselves. Jesus’ unconditional love led most whom He encountered to follow the boundary of love that moved their lives in a better direction.