Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good (Rom 12: 9)
People often say: "It is no longer possible to distinguish between truth and falsity, or between good and evil". Others argue about the value of even trying to distinguish between them. A friend of mine told me: "Any distinction between good and evil is artificial, because human life is a jumble of good and evil, and you must accept it as it is; if not you put an end to life, you kill man". Another friend said: "By trying to distinguish between good and evil, you create guilt complexes from which neuroses are born, the illness of this century..."
This month's Word of Life emerges from this confusion, a phrase from St. Paul: "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good". To express hate he uses a very strong Greek expression: a word which means "to flee in horror", with disgust, as if you had suddenly come across a poisonous snake. And to express adherence to goodness, he uses a word which in Greek means, "being glued to". It is as if he were to say "glue yourselves to goodness", so that no-one can detach you from it.
With this phrase he reminds us that in order to be Christians we must love everybody, but not everything. We love good, but we hate evil, for otherwise our love would be false, and not the genuine love of Jesus. It would be, as St. Paul says, a kind of hypocrisy to say that evil is good or vice versa, or indeed to disguise evil things with the name good.
There must be no confusion between a "guilt complex", and a mature and responsible "guilty conscience" for the evil we have done. Even if your vision is of an inextricable tangle in man between good and evil, you must also recognise that good and evil are not static and unavoidable realities, but rather are opposing forces, struggling continually. If a human being gives up the fight for good against evil, he gives up being human.
The subtle forms of hypocrisy which St. Paul is talking about can easily pollute our love. If, for instance, in an effort to please everyone, we will not stand up for the truth in face of error and falsehood, then our love is hypocritical. And if, either through fear, or the desire for a mistaken peace, we will not take the part of the bullied against the bully, then again our love is hypocritical. We are also guilty of hypocrisy if we tell lies, bow to compromise, or use questionable methods in the pursuit of good intentions: and the same is true if through mistaken solidarity, we find ourselves accomplices in evil. Another form of hypocrisy is false pity, which kills deformed or handicapped people who appear as unsupportable weights for the family or for society.
To love means to wish for good, not evil.
The principal characteristic of love is the desire for good, which means doing good, and supporting goodness. One particular aspect of love which should be emphasised is searching for, finding, and bringing to light all the good which we find in people, and in what they do.
Slander, which is all too frequent in Christian circles, is decidedly anti-Christian. If you needlessly point out a person's bad qualities, then even if what you say is true, you are bringing something to light which does not come from God. If on the other hand you bring goodness to light you give glory to God, the source of all goodness.
If a person's love is genuine, he possesses a special gift for discovering good. Those who pass by him may feel themselves "recognised", and looked upon with God's own love. to such an extent that they sometimes change. and all their goodness is brought out.
If we love each other, we continually discover the goodness in each other, and help each other. In fact as love between us grows, so too does truth. It becomes possible, at an appropriate moment, to talk together about the faults or gifts of each person, without breaking our unity; faults or gifts of which we were not even aware. This "moment of truth" is another application of St. Paul's words.
If our love is genuine, then during our day we will pursue everything that is good.
God gives us countless good things during the day and we even forget to thank him. The human heart contains limitless possibilities for doing good, so why have we no faith? So many attempts at doing good, although at times clumsy and awkward, are waiting to be understood and encouraged in order to come to fruition. Tears, efforts, hopes, the sacrifice of a mother, the ideals of young people, the patient and consistent work of so many; peace, life, justice, progress; it comes quite naturally to feel part of these.
True love, the love which Jesus has given us, is the energy capable of vanquishing evil with good. True love is the spark which ignites all the good in the world. I am convinced that despite appearances. and contrary publicity, there is much good in the world. and that it far outweighs the evil.