By: Elder E.W. Wheeler
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Rom.12:91)
The first sentence of our text calls for sincere love. The next sentence introduces the topic of this article.
From this passage, we learn the proper attitude toward sin. God’s word commands us to hate evil. According to Strong’s, “evil” means “hurtful influence or effect, and in a figurative sense, spiritually or morally diseased. “Evil” means “spiritually or morally harmful.” Therefore, we must hate every-thing that can harm us spiritually or morally, much like we try, to avoid disease. We must hate sin every time we encounter it.
The second part of that sentence tells us to have a strong attraction for things that are good. “Good” is the opposite of “evil,” meaning “beneficial.” We must have a strong desire to keep company with that which benefits us spiritually and morally. Before we can Join ourselves to good, we must first separate from those things that are harmful. The environment cannot be both clean and unclean simultaneously. To keep ourselves in a clean environment, we must separate ourselves from all uncleanness.
The meaning of the word “evil” is somewhat like a disease, except in a moral and spiritual sense. This is realized in a study of the word. Therefore, a look at some effects of diseases would be helpful.
In A.D. 250, a pestilence ravaged the Roman Empire, spreading from Egypt to the Herbides. In some Italian cities, as much as eighty per cent of the population died! According to Gibbons, the famed historian,
as much as half the human race perished in just twelve years!
In Sixth-Century-Europe the bubonic plague destroyed many. Later in 1347-1348 the Black Death is estimated to have killed as many as 25 million, or about one-fourth of Europe’s population. It was later
realized that this plague was transmitted to humans by fleas and from black rats, causing the body to be covered by a black rash. An estimated total of 75 million died around the world.
The great flu epidemic of 1918-1919 claimed as many as 21 million lives. In four weeks, more people died of flu than were lost in four years of World War I! The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia reports that about 100,000 people die each year in the US of infectious diseases, most of which could be prevented with modern medicine!
From these facts, we can readily see the terrible consequences of disease out of control. Much of the problems with the spread of disease in the past was because medical science of those days had little or no
understanding of’ how disease spreads. It seem likely that all Europe would have died of the Black Death had it not been for a man who read the Bible and began practicing its teachings about quarantine in the
Old Testament. God taught Israel to separate from society those who had contagious diseases. The Israelites were not to allow lepers and other diseased persons to move freely in society. They were
quarantined for the benefit of the community. When someone read this, they decided to try implementing these methods during the plague of the Black Death. Consequently, the plague was stopped, saving Europe
from possible annihilation. As with disease, God knows how to control sin. he only needs our trust and cooperation.
Once people truly hate sin, and realize how it spreads, it becomes much easier for them to separate themselves. Unfortunately, a great problem in the church today is that many do not truly hate sin. This fact
becomes obvious when we see those who have not separated themselves from sin. The person who recognizes a contagious disease, and understands how it spreads, will likely take proper precautions
because he does not want to be infected. The problem being addressed is with those who are comfortable around sin.
If one truly hates sin, he will hate it every time he encounters it. Too many excuse sin in their lives, or the lives of family and friends, but hate it in others. If we really do hate sin, we will hate it every thing we see it – even in friends – even in family, close family – even in ourselves.
The Corinthian Church did not have a proper attitude toward sin. According to I Cor. 5:2, when incest was in that church, they did not grieve (mourn) but instead they were proud (puffed up). The Apostle
commanded them to put that man out of the assembly, having no company with him, to the extent of refusing to eat with him. To some, these may seem like harsh measures, but we must trust that God is smarter than we are. This fact should be obvious. but people seem to lose sight of the fact that God really is smarter than we are, therefore we should use His judgment, and not our own.
The reason for this course of action is easily seen when we realize that “…a little leaven leveneth the whole lump.” (v.6) Disease spread in a manner similar to the leavening process that causes bread to rise. The fungi from yeast spreads throughout the lump of dough causing it to rise. Paul used that analogy to help us understand how sin spreads through an assembly if it is neglected. No action is required for the process to become thorough, neglect will result in a church full of sin.
No doubt many would not have fallen into that hideous moral sin, but other sins would have crept into the church. While many may have resisted open moral sin, their system of values would have been eroded, giving rise to cynicism and skepticism. The door would have been opened to iniquity because so many would have seen the gross error of allowing such sin to go undisciplined.
Often, the indirect results of open sin can claim more victims than the sin itself. When Korah rebelled against Moses, he was in the company of 250 insurgents, while 14,700 died sympathizing with Korah. For each who died in open sin, 58 died in sympathy. This is the tragedy often over-looked. Sin not only spreads to others, but also destroys even more who are not directly infected. Open sin cannot be neglected in an assembly without adversely affecting the attitudes of innocent people. Some will be lost because of bad attitudes.
A heavy burden of responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the ministry in dealing with sin. The way we respond to sin will have extensive effects on our followers. A local assembly cannot be clean unless the pastor hates sin. If he truly hates sin, he will first purge his heart, then strive to keep himself free from sin. Only then, is he qualified to help others. Being human, the preacher himself will on occasion struggle with some failure in his own life, but he must keep a repentant attitude. Open sins must be handled openly. I Tim. 5:20 says “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Rebuking sin openly helps develop fear in both the ministry and the laity. Then, when the laity knows that sin is handled in this manner, they should have confidence that the ministry is being kept clean. Sin is not being covered within the leadership of the church.
The next verse is very sobering “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” This is a very sober command to the ministry. Because we labor together, we come to rely on each other and form strong bonds of friendship. The ministry becomes a very close group, but we are still solemnly forbidden to show any partiality or any preference to our friends (or possible enemies) when we deal with sin in the
ministry. This is probably one of the hardest assignments ever given to a preacher, especially when the minister in question is a close friend. What a severe test! It would be so easy to keep the sin hidden, or to
make excuses, but Bible doctrine clearly forbids such sympathy–HATE AND SEPARATE!! We have no choice in the matter. We must “rebuke before all.” In dealing with an erring brother, we are separating
ourselves from sin, thus helping save ourselves and others. Sin is contagious – no less contagious that the devastating plagues of the past, when an entire world was in jeopardy. We cannot survive unless we
hate sin. Sadly, more die in sympathy than in open sin. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” so I must always remember that I am part of the lump.
Near the end of 1984, I was stricken with blood poisoning and several serious problems resulted. I was hospitalized in an institution that didn’t employ proper habits of sanitation and cleanliness. The rooms
were not keep clean and sanitary. I would return from the X-ray with black stains. During minor surgery in my room, pus and infection spewed on the walls, but they were not cleaned during the remainder of my
stay. In that unsanitary environment, Infection grew worse and spread, posing an imminent threat to life. Apparently, that institution did not hate infection as they should have. There is reason to believe my health would be better today if they had practiced more sanitary conditions.
The next hospital was opposite, with much more desirable results. In that hospital, the rooms were kept immaculately clean. When a bed was vacated, hospital staff gave the room a thorough scrub with strong
disinfectants, to the point of scrubbing the furniture. The mattress was removed so both bed and mattress received a thorough scrubbing. There, the last flickers of life were nourished and protected from further disease and infection, effecting a remarkable degree of recovery. They hated disease and infection.
A parallel extends to the local assembly. A church that does not hate sin, and keeps itself separated from sin and worldliness will help destroy the very ones they should be pledged to strengthen, nourish and
protect. Like a child who is being abused by his parents, these people trust themselves to those who have become their enemies. An assembly that does not properly hate sin is dangerous!
The innocent will be destroyed with the guilty. “A little leavening” really does affect “the whole lump.” The Bible said it did. If we believe the Bible we must believe this principle, regardless who is affected! No other course is safe.
The principle of hate and separate extends even to close family members. Deut. 13:6-11 warns about family or friends who would try to influence us from our service to God. Anyone guilty received a death sentence. The offended person was to be the first to raise a hand against his life. He could have no “pity.” He could neither “spare” nor “conceal.” What a stern law! It included brothers, sons, daughters, wives, and close friends. None of these people were to receive any pity for their sin. A parent who pities their child in sin is not helping their child. We must love our families, but we must hate sin. We can love our families and still hate their sins. Anything less makes it harder to reach those who fall. If we really hate sin, we will not
make excuses for friends or family members when they are guilty of sin. When a friend or family member has to be dis-fellowshipped from a local assembly, we should join that assembly and distance ourselves from that person as far as possible. Difficulties may arise when we are living in the same house with that person, but the more we cooperate, the more likely that person can be helped, which is one reason why we
sometimes have to remove someone from fellowship.
The Bible teaches us to hate everything evil, everything that poses a threat to our moral or spiritual welfare. No other recourse can be safe. When God’s people become comfortable around sin they are likely to be destroyed in large numbers, much like the plagues of history that sometimes threatened vast segments of society with extinction. Our spiritual survival depends on an attitude of hate and separate.
This information was supplied by a subscriber to the Apostolic Information Service.