This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Loving Sinners By Hating Their Sin

I like Mark Lowry.  He is funny and talented.  Recently, I read this quotation posted from him on a friend's Facebook page.  

Would you hit the "like" button for this?  

I understand the main message of Lowry's comment rightly points to our need to humble ourselves before God and to focus on taking the log of our own eyes before commenting upon the splinters in another person's eye.  We must not speak of another's sin as though it were alien to our own souls.  Condemning sin from a position of self-righteousness negates the Gospel message of God's righteousness available to us by His grace through faith in Jesus.  We indeed are hypocrites if we condemn sin in others' lives that we are not willing to confess and condemn when those sins or similar sins reside in our own soul.  I get this.  

But Lowry's comment goes way beyond that message.  His comment indicates that we should not repeat the truth that God has revealed to us about sin when sin is attached to anyone other than ourselves.  Is this what love demands of us?  I think many in the church today agree with Lowry.   But I would argue that this response is extremely unloving.  Love requires us to find time to hate all sin.

Why do I say that love requires us to hate all sin?

1.    Love hates all sin because sin causes the sinner to die. 

Hating the sin of another is not harmful to another person, but helpful.  Every sin brings some kind of death to an individual.  Some sins bring death more tragically and visually than other sins, but all sin brings death upon the sinner.  Imagine a friend who has become addicted to heroin.  His sin locks him into the world of physical, emotional, relational and spiritual death.  Just a year earlier, your friend looked healthy.  He was excelling in his work; he was happy with his wife and children at home; he was worshipping God in church.  But now, he is emaciated in appearance; he has been fired from his job; he has abandoned his family and he is disconnected from God.  Can you imagine saying to your friend, “I do not have time to hate your sin.”?  Every sin brings forth death, even those sins that seem more innocuous.  A friend loves at all times and cares enough to confront sin in gentleness.  This is the very heart of God’s instructions in Galatians 6 and James 5: 
Galatians 6:1 "Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."
James 5:19 -20 "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."

2.    Love hates all sin because sin causes innocents to suffer.

Many sins harm not only the person committing the sin, but also injure other “innocents.”  I use this word “innocents” to describe the people who are directly harmed by another’s sin through no involvement of their own.  Hating the sin of another person is often necessary to loving those who are the victims of sin.  For instance, love demands that I hate the sin of the rapist.  Love demands that I hate the sin of the slanderer, the murderer, the thief, the adulterer, the oppressor, etc . . .  Love cannot say to the parents of a molested child, “I do not have time to hate the sin of the man who molested your son.”  Love hates sin because sin brings unjust pain and suffering upon innocents.  Isaiah the prophet wisely counsels us:  Isaiah 1:16-17  "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause."
I love that Isaiah urges us first to wash ourselves and remove evil from our own lives.  But his counsel urges us to hate evil, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others.  Only as we hate others' sins are we able to “correct oppression” and “bring justice to the fatherless.”

3.    Love hates all sin because sin caused Christ to suffer on the cross.

Love for Jesus’ requires that we hate sin in every form and every person.   We cannot be apathetic to any sin when we know what suffering sin brought upon our Savior.  What grief sin brought upon Him!  What unspeakable pain was His because of sin.  Yes, we are right to personalize Jesus’ pain by acknowledging that our sins nailed Him to the tree.  Yet our love for Jesus forever turns our hearts away from all sin with a disgust that it rightly deserves.
It is a passion for God’s glory that causes the psalmist to say:  Psalm 97:10  "O you who love the LORD, hate evil!" 

4.    Love hate all sin because God is love and He hates all sin.

God hates all evil and we are never wrong when we imitate Him.  It is God’s hatred of sin that motivates our hatred of it.  We do not hate sin because it offends our natural bent, but because it strikes at God’s glory as our Creator, Sustainer, Master and Savior.  As believers, we carry an awe of God that changes the way we think about those sins that our flesh accepts.  The more we reverence Him; the more we will hate sin in every form.  Consider God’s truth from Proverbs 8:13 "The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil."

So what are we to do with Mark Lowry’s advice?  If there were a “dislike” button, love demands that I hit it.  

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, this is the best blog post that any of us has posted. I have linked to it on my facebook page. Thank you, Ritch, for a clear, succinct, and beautiful portrayal of why we must take NO prisoners and make no compromise when it comes to the awful sinfulness of sin. We have lost sight of what really loving someone means.