Something's been bothering me lately. I think in recent times the church at large has ceased hating sin. If I had to guess, I would say that it's probably due in part to the uprising of new churches which are responding to legalism which has plagued the church in times past. Don't get me wrong, I know that there are many churches that are still very legalistic. I'm reminded almost every week of churches that are just focused on the wrong things. Many of us grew up in churches where it was more about preserving 1950's social norms the pursuing genuine scripture oriented godliness. Somewhere along the way the western church confused social norms with morality, and what resulted was the idea that the purpose of the church was to create good upstanding people. I love what C.S. Lewis said concerning this issue. He said that "Jesus didn't come to make good people. He came to make a different sort of person altogether." Jesus' goal was never about making us "good." His goal was to make us new! It was never about rules. It has always been about relationship. Even in the Old Testament. God gave his law to reveal his character. Yes, he expects us to follow his law because his law reveals his character, and he expects us to become conformed to his character. But it was never about the rules themselves. It was about him and us walking together. In the beginning, genuine relationship existed, then it got screwed up. Now, all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is about restoring that relationship. I know, I know. You're complaining that I'm oversimplifying things. But I would contend that all the intricacies of Scripture fit under the umbrella of restoration.
Okay, now I'm going to stop harping on that because it's not my point. I actually think that many of the next generation of churches get that. Sure, many would not articulate it in that way, but we get it. I think the challenge for the emerging church is to not let the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction. I fear that it may have already happened. Our problem is not confusing old social norms with morality, but confusing freedom in Christ with tolerance of sin. Somehow "love the sinner, hate the sin" has become "love the sinner, tolerate the sin."
This morning I came across something that Jonathan Edwards wrote about sin:
We should hate sin worse than death, and should fear it worse than the devil himself; and dread it even as we dread damnation.
Sin in its own nature is infinitely hateful so in its natural tendency it is infinitely dreadful. It is the tendency of all sin eternally to undo the soul. Every sin naturally carries hell in it! Therefore all sin ought to be treated by us as we would treat a thing that is infinitely terrible.
So this morning, I had to ask myself the question: "Do I hate sin?" Do I despise it, loathe it? Does it make me sick to my stomach? Or do I tend to tolerate it in my own life and in the lives of others? I have to admit that too often I tolerate it. Jesus takes us as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way. He changes us. He disciplines us. He loves us enough to take us through the painful process of sanctification. And then in the name of love, we balk at calling out sin in the lives of those around us. What we do is pick out a few choice sins like homosexuality, abortion, and drug addiction to be adamant about and fool ourselves into thinking that we take a strong stance against sin. What about gluttony? Gluttony carries hell in it! What about lust? Lust carries hell in it! What about gossip? Gossip carries hell in it!What about laziness? What about hoarding financial blessings? What about neglecting the poor, widows, and homeless? What about any number of so called "little sins?" Do we hate them? Do I hate them? Honestly, I am literally nauseated right now. I think I could use a little nausea. You probably could too.
Hate sin! Hate it because it destroys anything that is good and right. Hate it because it is out to destroy you. Hate it because it is out to destroy your family, your ministry, your life. Dread it as much as you would dread going to hell. Dread it until the day that God damns it forever to the lake fire along with Satan and all his minions. Hate sin! Hate it!
I'm starting a mantra, right now. Maybe it will catch on. "Love God. Hate sin."
So may your own sin nauseate you. May the sin of those around you trouble you. May you love God and hate sin.