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I know it when I see it

by | May 5, 2020 | Romans 12 | 0 comments

Read: Romans 12: 9

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.


When presented with a case challenging obscenity laws in 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart used the phrase, “I know it when I see it”, to describe his opinion on pornography. While he disagreed that the film in question was obscene, even if he believed it to be subjective, he did confirm that there is such a standard of good and evil.

But who defines good and evil? During a public forum on the topic, Ravi Zacharias entertained an objection from the audience saying – “There cannot be a God, because there is too much evil in this world.”

Ravi responded, “When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there’s good. When you assume there’s good, you assume there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you’re trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil. What is your question?”

If there no moral law or Law Giver, there is no good, there is no evil. We all know better, right? So, following his insistence that love be genuine, Paul then commands his readers to hate what is evil.

We live in a world where hate is almost as misused as love. So, another translation uses the word “abhor” instead of hate and I think that gives us a clearer picture of Paul’s intent. He says we should “regard with disgust” things that are evil. Do we?

Second, we are to cling to what is good. Paul has already described what it means to desire the good. This is lived out by not conforming to the pressures from the outside. Clinging to good is found in found in keeping the great commandment to love God with everything within us and to love other human beings as well. Loving God honors Him. Loving others honors their dignity – their value.


Justice Stewart, evaluated evil from his own view. He recognized evil when he saw it. What standard did he use to recognize good?


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