Love the Sinner But Hate the Sin?

Is the old saying, “love the sinner but hate the sin,” unbiblical? Is it justCross and Stained Glass an excuse for right-wing Evangelicals to hide behind while self-righteously judging the activity of others- be they believer or unbeliever? I have read several articles recently that argue this very thing, saying that, “love the sinner but hate the sin,” is at best unfeasible and at worst unchristian. However, is this truly the case? I would contend that it is not, and that we best not rush to throw this saying out the window.

In fact, I would argue that this pithy little saying- if handled rightly- is both eminently Christian and Biblical. It is not only a decent- albeit truncated- summation of how Christians are called to walk and be lights in the midst of a fallen world, but it is actually a pretty strong paraphrase of Jude 1:20-23. In this passage the half-brother of Jesus wrote:

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”

The last sentence, “Have mercy on those… show mercy… hating even the garment stained by the flesh,” could be roughly translated, “love the sinner but hate the sin.” Jude is calling believers to love and mercy, both for fellow brothers and sisters who are struggling with sin and doubting, as well as for the lost. But, he calls them to love and mercy, not at the expense of coddling or excusing sin, but warning them that they should love those struggling or lost in sin, all the while, “hating the garment stained by the flesh,” which means they are to hate sin and anything to do with sin.

Christians are called to love sinners, to love the lost, but not the sin. Has this teaching been misused over the years? Sadly, yes. Many in the church have used this saying merely as a cliché covering, which has served as means to fight the culture war and rail against the lifestyles and morality of unbelievers, all the while maintaining that we love the sinner- just not their sin. However, we have not been called to fight a war against culture, we have been called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God, and to make disciples. So, if we are to reclaim this teaching of Jude, to snatch it out of the flames of the culture wars and apply it Biblically, we have address the question; what does it mean to love the sinner but hate the sin?

To love the sinner, means we are willing to pour our lives out so that they may see and know Christ, we are willing to go on seeking to love them even if they mean us harm. A good question to ask here is; are we…? Are we willing to pour our lives out for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or would we just prefer to fight? Are we willing to love those who disregard us, hate us, perhaps even want to harm us? If we realize that our answer here is no, then we need to repent and ask the Lord to empower us to lovingly bear witness to Him by loving those who do not love Him and, often, do not loves us.

When we say hate the sin, it means we will not approve of that which God disapproves, we will not call good what God has called evil- whether in our own lives or in the lives others. A good question to ask here is; do we…? In our efforts to be seen as “loving” or “understanding” do we approve of what God disapproves? In our desire to be comfortable do we call good what God has called evil? If we do, then we need to repent of standing in opposition to the Word of God and ask that the Holy Spirit convict us of what it means to walk worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good news in all of this is that we serve a God Who is love. We serve a God Who, “so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In light of this glorious truth, how can we not love sinners for Whom Christ died and how can we not hate the sin from which Christ died to save us? In other words, to love the sinner but hate the sin, is to imitate Christ and walk in accordance with the gospel. “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:23).

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The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us: Hail the Incarnate Deity!

Christmastime is upon us; the trees are decorated, the stockings are hung, the presents are crammed in closets just waiting to be wrapped, and the airwaves crackle with the music of the holidays. It is about this time each year that my mind is drawn to the the opening verses of John’s Gospel. When we celebrate Christmas we tend to turn our eyes back to that manger in Bethlehem word-became-fleshsome two thousand years ago- as well we should- however, in this passage John reminds us that Christmas, while culminating in that stable long ago, did not begin there. Instead it is rooted in eternity past.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth….  For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. ” (John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18).

The first chapter of John may not be the most recited Christmas passage in the Bible, but I can think of no more appropriate verses, in all of Scripture, to turn to as we ready our hearts, minds, and homes to celebrate the birth of Christ! Here, within these eighteen verses, lies the very heart and soul of Christmas; the mystery of the incarnation. God became man, the Creator joined Himself with His creation, the One Who existed for all eternity was born, He Who spoke the universe into being uttered His first newborn cry. The mind absolutely boggles at the phrase, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us!”

As Charles Wesley once wrote, “Hail the incarnate deity…. Jesus! Our Immanuel!”

Merry Christmas to one and all!

-Soli Deo Gloria

 

By Grace… Through Faith… For Good Works: A Brief Look at Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is theHawaii Image gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Being found in Christ, means that the believer does not depend on his own righteousness and obedience to ‘get right’ with God, instead, his righteousness and obedience flow from his having ‘been made right’ with God.

The ultimate assurance for the Christian is that his eternal soul is secure in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We cannot add to this, no matter how good we are, nor can we take away from it, no matter how much we mess up! We have been saved- set apart for God and sealed for all eternity- by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ.

Positional- or judicial- holiness in Christ always precedes, and fuels, growth in personal holiness! Our good works- not matter how sincere- can never bring about right standing before God, but right standing- by grace through faith in Jesus Christ- should always result in good works! We have been made right with God, and so we are called to live right before God, not to earn our standing, not to keep our standing, but because of our standing!

– Soli Deo Gloria

No Other Gospel: Thoughts on Galatians 1:6-7

Epistle_to_Galatians_IlluminatadIn Galatians 1, verses 6 and 7, Paul, with great economy of language, begins to address what had occasioned the writing of this letter to the churches in Galatia. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one….” It is hard to know if Paul is more “astonished” that they are buying into this “different gospel” in the first place, or how “quickly” it happened, although it is probably safe to assume some combination of both. Sufficed to say, this church, that Paul had so recently planted, had begun to let go of the gospel he delivered to them and take hold “another one,” a false one, a non-gospel which- as he will begin to address in the coming chapters- would only serve to steal their freedom in Christ and return them to bondage. Perhaps only months earlier, these same Galatians were joyfully receiving the good news of Jesus Christ, taking hold of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, but now they were beginning to lay hold of a “different gospel,”

How did this sudden shift happen? Paul goes on to give an answer as to the cause, “there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” It would seem that within months of Paul leaving Galatia, others had slipped in, desiring to twist the gospel. A little later, when Paul recounts his second visit to the Jerusalem Church, he speaks of “false brothers… who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery- to them we did not yield… so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” (Gal 2:4-6).

It’s a pretty safe bet that the crowd that showed up after Paul in Galatia- spreading a false word- were of the same ilk as those he had to address, with the Apostles, in Jerusalem. It is likely that these “false brothers” did not deny the gospel that Paul preached to the Galatians, but rather labeled it incomplete. Sure, they might say, grace though Faith in Christ is good, but that’s not enough, that just gets you started. You also have to be circumcised, adhere to the Mosaic dietary laws, take part in the festivals and feasts of Israel, etc. Essentially, they taught that believing in Jesus- and His work on the Cross- was a good start, but if you really want ‘in,’ you must become Jewish- you had to join the physical family of Abraham and keep all the laws of Moses. To the Galatian churches, which were mostly comprised of Gentile Greeks, who had come to faith through the ministry of Paul, this teaching probably rang true(ish). After all, Jesus was Jewish, Christianity was founded on the ancient religion of Judaism, the Apostolic Church was located in Jerusalem, wouldn’t it make sense that in order to follow Christ- to truly belong to Him- they too would have to become Jewish?

However, Paul saw that there was more at stake here than just whether Gentiles believers had to take part in Jewish religious practices in order to be Christian. He saw, in this distortion of the gospel, an attempt to undo what Christ had done. Jesus came to free his people from the bondage of sin and death, but these teachers sought to enslave them again. Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses and reveal God the Father to His people, but these false brothers sought to reestablish the law and obscure the face of the Father. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon so aptly wrote, “Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all.”

How did these false teacher distort the gospel? By saying that the finished work of Christ on your behalf, on its own, is inadequate, that you must also add to it works of the Law, or religious practices, or righteousness of your own. Again, Spurgeon spoke truly when he wrote, “There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction.” At the end of the day, this different gospel, that the Galatians were beginning to buy into, stood in stark contrast- even antithesis- to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which- as Paul would later write to the Ephesian believers- proclaimed that, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul will spend the rest of this letter reminding the churches in Galatia that nothing may be added to, or taken away from, this gospel, without losing it entirely!

No Other Gospel: Thoughts on Galatians 1:1-5

When it comes to unpacking the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and applying to our lives, the epistle to the Galatians may very well contain the most potent six chapters in all of Holy Scripture.

Paul.Galatians

From the beginning to end of this letter, Paul calls the Galatian believers to turn from any- and all- ‘non-gospels’ that have crept in masquerading as the truth, and to hold fast to the one true Gospel of Jesus Christ that he- and the other Apostles- faithfully delivered to them.

In the opening verses of chapter one Paul basically introduces, and summarizes, his entire letter. He begins, in verses 1 & 2, by reminding the Galatians, in no uncertain terms, who he is, “an apostle- not from man nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.” Why does Paul, start off his letter so abruptly and forcefully? The answer lies only few verses later, when Paul expresses his shock and dismay that this church that he had started, and very recently spent time with, had already begun to believe “a different gospel.” It seems other teachers had come in, shortly after Paul left, and began to lead the people away from the Gospel that he had proclaimed to them and by which they had come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

However, before engaging these other teachers and their “different gospel,” Paul reminds his readers of the one true Gospel, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to Whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Gal 1:3-5). This is the Gospel in a Pauline nutshell; by grace, we now have peace with God, because Jesus Christ- by the will of the Father- gave Himself for our sins, delivering us- saving us- from the darkness of this fallen world, so that through faith in Him we have life, to the glory God alone forever and ever! As Timothy Keller, in his book, ‘Galatians for You,’ writes, “The Gospel is the A to Z of the Christian life. It is not only the way to enter the kingdom; it is the way to live as part of the kingdom. It is the way Christ transforms people, churches, and communities,”

Even in his opening remarks, Paul wants to make it clear that salvation belongs to God alone, there are no alternate routes by which we may come to Him, but through Christ, and His sacrifice on our behalf, accomplishing what never could. To any who wish to add something to this great Gospel, he says, “This work is of God, from beginning to end! God alone conceived of it, God alone enacted it, and God alone applies it to the lives of His people, and to that end, God alone gets the glory!” Commenting on these verses, Martin Luther wrote, “These words are like so many thunderclaps of protest from heaven against every kind and type of self-merit. Underscore these words, for they are full or comfort for sore consciences.”