“Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good…Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9, 21)
Abhor is to cleave as evil is to good. They are opposites that cannot be compared (a way of looking at similar things), but can only be contrasted (a way of looking at dissimilar things). And, as it turns out, they represent the only approved (by God) modus operandi for the Christian.
One thing I learn from this text is that there are things which are actually evil, with no redeeming characteristics, while there are other things God refers to as being good. The verses do not, however, say that everything in this world falls into one or the other category, only that the categories exist and can be differentiated between. Some things actually are relative to time, place, and custom (1 Cor. 7:25-26; 8:9; and 11:16). But we must always be aware that there are things in this world that are wrong any time, anywhere, and under any circumstances. I’ll not list any of them now; because, after all, anyone who is truly interested in pleasing God can find them in the Scriptures—plain, unhidden, and accessible.
Another thing I learn is that once we have determined something (or someone) to be evil, we are not merely to frown upon, or even turn away from it; we are to shrink from it as one would a deadly plague. “Abhor” is a very strong word and not hard to spot. It is easy to tell the difference between those who linger on the outer edges of sin, and those who live another county away from it. And, by contrast, we should not simply prefer “that which is good,” we should clutch it to our bosoms as we would a life preserver in ocean waves. I mean, hang onto it for dear life!
Verse 21 lets us know this is going to be a constant tug-of-war. Mark it down; one will try to overcome the other, to gain the upper hand. For this reason, anything less than abhorring evil and cleaving to good is not going to get it done. Half-way measures will not just prove to be disappointing; they will end up being disastrous.