Well, we’ve made it. We have made a cursory beginner’s dive into Paul’s letter to the Romans. And we arrive at chapter 16, as Paul instructs us to greet all his friends that we do not know, and that died almost 2,000 years ago. Which makes greeting them difficult at best. But as we move through the chapter one simple verse stood out to me.
“For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” Romans 16:19 ESV
Be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. This is a statement we have almost flipped in the current era. In an effort to be relevant, we have attempted to be wise about what is evil. We express and explore things that are not good for us. We walk along the edge of evil, calling it an exercise in freedom. We try things that are unnecessary. Are we free to do so? Most of the time, yes. But is it wise? That’s another question. We have seen how close we can get to the edge, rather than pursuing innocence and holiness. Purity has become something we are more comfortable making fun of, than encouraging. People are embarrassed that they are a virgin, or that they’ve never had alcohol, or that they haven’t done something else. And others are embarrassed that they know too many Bible answers, or have too many verses memorized.
But Paul says to be wise about what is good. And to be innocent of evil. It’s fairly simple and it sounds like a good plan. Maybe even a starting point. Know more about good than evil. When I was in college, I was a philosophy major (well, technically I was a music composition and philosophy double major, neither of which I finished which in the end makes me a dropout. But for the purpose of this story, I was a philosophy major). I studied what many different thinkers had written about life and our world. As I sat in my car one morning, waiting for class to start, God challenged me. I realized that I was spending way more time learning what people thought than I did pursuing what God thought. I was spending way more time studying the lie, than I was the truth. But I justified it by saying, “Yeah, but it’s homework.” That doesn’t matter. So, I had to start studying my Bible more than I studied philosophy. To spend more time in the word than I spent on my homework. It turned out to be a lot. And it helped.
I’m not telling you what you have to do in your life. I’m just noting that Paul said to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil. It’s a simple two-pronged goal for the end of a really complicated letter. But it’s a place to start. And that’s what I need. Because otherwise, learning becomes stagnant, if it does not affect how we live. So I’ll start here.