We refrain from returning evil for evil not only because it is the right course but also because it is the loving course. Note how the apostle Paul next considers the motive of love. In the book of Romans, Paul uses the word “love” (a·ga′pe in Greek) several times when referring to God’s love and that of Christ. (Romans 5:5, 8; 8:35, 39) However, in chapter 12, Paul uses a·ga′pe in a different way—in speaking about love shown to fellow humans. After noting that spiritual gifts vary and are present among some believers, Paul mentions a quality that should be cultivated by all Christians. He states: “Let your love be without hypocrisy.” (Romans 12:4-9) Showing love to others is a basic mark of true Christians. (Mark 12:28-31) Paul exhorts us to make sure that the love we show as Christians is sincere.
Further, Paul notes how love without hypocrisy is shown, stating: “Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) “Abhor” and “cling” are strong words. “Abhor” can be translated “hate exceedingly.” We must hate not merely the consequences of evil but also the evil itself. (Psalm 97:10) The word “cling” is a translation of a Greek verb that literally means “to glue.” A Christian who has genuine love is so firmly glued, or attached, to the quality of goodness that it becomes an inseparable part of his personality.
One particular manifestation of love is mentioned by Paul again and again. He states: “Keep on blessing those who persecute; be blessing and do not be cursing.” “Return evil for evil to no one.” “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved.” “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Romans 12:14, 17-19, 21) Paul’s words leave no doubt about how we should treat nonbelievers, even those who oppose us.