“Ask a Priest: Should We Not Love Evil People?”

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Q: I found this biblical quote on the Internet, from Romans 16:17-19 – “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 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.” My question is: Is this from the Catholic Bible? This quote would go against God’s rule that says to love everyone, even the evil people you come across. I try to avoid these people as best as I can, but after I accepted Jesus into my life I’ve become too nice of a person to reject anybody. Also, what does God mean when he says to treat people as a gentile or tax collector? “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17). Thanks so much for your time. – A.K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to hear that you have accepted Jesus into your life. He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Let me mention at the start that you can find the New American Bible online. This is the version used in Masses in the U.S.

Regarding the two quotes you mention: You will basically find the same wording in any Catholic Bible.

The call to avoid people who can mislead others in the faith is simple prudence. We can still love those people, in the sense that we can pray for them and that we hope they reach heaven someday.

For this reason, we shouldn’t think of certain people as inherently evil; they too can have a conversion or come to the full knowledge of Jesus’ teachings. But loving someone doesn’t mean we are obligated to stay close to them and expose our faith to attacks.

And remember, that second quote is directly from Jesus. If he counsels people to keep their distance from someone who stubbornly opposed the faith, then we can be sure that that is good advice.

Being “nice” to people doesn’t mean we go to any extreme to accommodate them. The simple fact is, being Christian means to encounter opposition and at times ridicule. It also entails speaking out at times against the injustice and immorality we see around us. That will make us enemies. It made enemies for Jesus, but he didn’t water down his message.

Perhaps it would be good to read the Gospels with an eye toward how often Jesus faced opposition. That means we can expect opposition, too, if we really want to be his disciples.

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