Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
“Love the sinner and hate the sin” – how many times have you heard this? Is this how the believer is to act and believe, and if so, how does one act this out in real life?
The Scriptures are clear that Jesus loves sinners in the sense that He gave His life to save the world. He ate and drank with those that the Pharisees were quick to call “sinners” for indeed that is what prostitutes, tax collectors and the Gentiles were known for – sinning. But the Scriptures are also clear that God hates sin. For example, Proverbs 6:16-19 states “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Yet, Jesus loved sinners and constantly reached out to them, and he did this in the ultimate sense, for “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The Pharisees, on the other hand, despised “sinners,” but in their hatred, they were blind to their own sin. They viewed themselves as righteous because they fastidiously kept the Old Testament laws, e.g., they prayed, washed their food ceremonially, and kept themselves from “unclean things.” Yet in their hearts they were full of wickedness and greed (Luke 11:39). In contrast, Jesus continuously showed forgiveness to those who acknowledged their sin and reached out to Him, and rebuked those who saw themselves as better than others.
So how does this apply to you and me? For one, when we acknowledge that we are all sinners (note the we in Romans 5:8 above), it affects our view of everyone else. None of us can say that we are inherently better than anyone else, although in our sinful tendencies we can view others’ sins as greater than our own – like the Pharisees. We are to love one another, even those who would hate us – our enemies, as the Bible calls them. However, loving one another is different than failing to speak the truth of the Scriptures because we are afraid someone who doesn’t agree with them might be offended. The greatest love we can show to anyone is to share the truth of the Word of God with them. That truth is shared not just in our words, however, but also in our actions. Are we willing to sacrifice our own possessions, time, and money to help others that don’t agree with us regarding our love for and belief in Christ? Are we willing to befriend others that don’t view the world as we do? Do we actually have such friends? Jesus did these things, and others will notice if we follow His example. Such love is necessary to earn the right to be heard when we speak things that are contrary to the counsel of the wicked, which is contrary to the Scriptures and the basis of thoughts and actions that are destroying those who espouse and follow them.
May God help us to love people with our actions, while at the same time preaching the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), which is the message of God’s love and salvation to a dying world that is a slave to sin.
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