Romans 16:19 – 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.
What do you study? With what do you familiarize yourself? A look at Romans 16:19, Paul’s farewell to the church in Rome, challenges us to a way of thinking that is properly balanced. God wants us to be wise about what is good while being innocent of evil.
Let’s look at those two commands in reverse order. God calls us to be innocent of evil. This means that, so far as the evil practices and wrong-headed thinking of the world goes, we are not to be involved. We most certainly are not to find ourselves fascinated more with the study of the false doctrines of cults, the evil practices of the occult, or the details of the decadent lives of people in the world. We are to be innocent, clean, pure, unblemished. This, of course, puts a challenge before the person who believes that he has to experience all sorts of sinful entertainment in order to be “relevant” in the culture.
One quick balancing point: We are to be innocent of evil, but not ignorant. The call here is not for us to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that evil does not exist. However, the knowledge that we should have of the culture around us should be enough to understand its existence, not to be familiar with its details so much so that our imaginations can run away with us and drag us into sin. So, for example, a Christian ought to be aware of the presence of a local strip joint, but ought not get so into the conversation with his lost buddies as to learn the details of a particular stripper’s anatomy or routine. A Christian most certainly can be aware of certain cultural phenomena such as musical trends, teen habits, movies, comedy routines, or other potentially sinful activities without becoming so intimately involved with them as to be tempted by them (not that any in that list is necessarily sinful) .
Look at the alternative with me, and I think you will see an appropriate difference. Instead of becoming experts on the evil of the world, it is far better for us to become wise about what is good. God wants us to spend the bulk of our brain power dwelling on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). He wants us to be experts on him, his grace, his word, his love, his power, his glory, etc. God wants us to think about how to help others to know him and how we can show his love to a lost and dying world. God wants us to know his word better than we know the content of any form of entertainment, sinful or not. God wants us to love his word far more than we love finding a hole in the argumentation of some critic of the faith. It is far better to fill your mind with what is truly good than it is to ponder the strategy of the evil.
Today, why not make it a goal of yours to take time to become wise at what is good? Why not make it a point to spend more of your time focused on what is right than what is wrong? How about making sure that you balance your leisure time in favor of that which honors God? And why not, while you’re at it, see about closing the doors of your life to that which is too much information on the evil? Let us learn to glorify God by loving him with our minds, becoming wise at what is good and innocent of evil.