We’re starting the week of posts off by returning to Psalms. The current plan is to stick with this through the first 24 Psalms. As I dug into Psalms 11 and 12 today, I found myself really moved to talk about unbelievers and how we relate to them as Christians. This is a subject I seem to come back to often, as it just breaks my heart to see the way some believers act towards those who don’t believe.
In this Psalm written by David, the theme is to not despair over bad times. First, David sets the scene of a pending bad time.
Psalm 11:2-3 for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; 3 if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The answer to this question lies with God, who is in His place watching all things.
Psalm 11:4 The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The reason this verse speaks to me is because of the way in which it answers the question posed in verses 2-3. This Psalm goes on to offer more about what God will do to those who are wicked and love violence (it doesn’t end well for them), but I love that it first offers us verse 4. It essentially says that God is God, and God is in His place, and God sees all things. Just that thought alone brings me comfort. Just this reminder, this assurance that God is in place in heaven, He’s on the throne, and His eyes see what’s going on, that alone just fills me with peace. Because if God is in His place, a place of power and sovereignty over all things, and if He sees what’s going on, then what is there to worry about? As I get to know more about who God is, as I really start to have this fuller trust and understanding in His nature, just the thought of Him holds great power in my life. This picture I get from this verse of a believer in peril, enemies surrounding him with bows at the ready, when it zooms out in verse 4 and you see God there in his temple, you see Him there, looking down and watching, I just feel so peaceful for that believer in peril. He’s got the ultimate backup, and if anything bad happens to that believer in peril it would be temporary. We know who the ultimate victor is, and we know that in the end the wicked and violent people get dealt with by God.
Another Psalm of David, in this one he’s talking about the prominence of the wicked people in the world.
Psalm 12:8 On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man.
It sounds like something familiar, doesn’t it? The world around us just feels so dirty a lot of the time. When I see the things that people say and rejoice over on the internet, when you listen to the way people talk to one another out in the world, it really can make you feel like wickedness is everywhere. But I want you to see the verse that precedes this.
Psalm 12:7 You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever.
I found this to be a really interesting verse. So often the protections or cries for protection in the bible are specific. Protect me from the wicked, protect me from my enemies, things of that nature. But here, we’re talking about an entire generation! I understand that David wasn’t writing about our particular generation, but man, I gotta think they fit right in with the spirit of this verse. We live in an age of self. If it feels good, do it! If you want it, buy it! If you can’t afford it, charge it! We live in an age that seems to despise God. It’s an age where war is being waged against the Kingdom of God, where religious freedoms and those who practice them are looked at as enemies by so many.
As I studied this verse and consulted other study guides about it, there was one thing I read that I really liked. We don’t just need God to guard us from this generation because of the attacks on our faith that might come, we need God to guard us from falling in with this generation. When I think of the stronghold of God, I only think of it as a defensive structure. It keeps our enemies from getting to us. But as I studied this verse, it occurred to me that the stronghold of God also keeps us separated from our enemies. God knows our weaknesses, and He knows how easy it can be for us to fall in with the crowd. Surrounded by nothing but people who focus solely on themselves and fulfilling all of their desires, it gets harder and harder to hold true to a selfless lifestyle. That’s why I think it’s so important to find and get involved with a spirit filled church. God is a spiritual stronghold for me, but my home church is like a manifestation of that in the physical realm. It’s a place where I can get built up, where I can get equipped to wade out into this generation, to be among it but not of it, and to spread the good news of Jesus while I’m out there.
I’ve said this before but I just felt moved to say it again. True followers of Jesus Christ don’t hate the lost. I talk about being guarded from this generation, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love the people who make up this generation. The only difference between me and a lost person is that I found the way and they haven’t yet. That’s it. I’m not better, I’m not superior, I’m just redeemed by the blood of Jesus. It’s not a gift just for me, either, it’s one that’s there for the taking to everyone, and one I so dearly and desperately hope everyone accepts.
Unbelievers justify their hate of Christians by believing that it’s a mutual hate. At every single opportunity, we need to work to get rid of that assumption. Because it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m telling you, if you’re a Christian and you hate non-Christians, then friend, you’ve got something severely twisted. Jesus has a soft spot for sinners. In fact, he died for them. And never forget, we were all non-Christians at one point or another, so never get so far removed from that that you lose sight of what this is all about. We should love the lost so much that we can’t stand the thought of them dying without coming to know God. It should be one of our most pressing desires to find a way that we can help lead lost souls into a relationship with God. Unbelievers who hate Christians should feel ashamed after they meet us, because we love them so deeply and so completely that they can’t believe they ever hated us.
CLOSING AND PRAYER
In researching this blog, I found a lot of people who were against the idea of “hate the sin, not the sinner”. I’m sorry, but I disagree with those people. I hate anything that comes between a person and God. And sin does that. Loving someone and agreeing with their lifestyle are two separate things. Too often we seem to lose sight of that. I hate the sin in my own life, but in no way do I hate myself. It’s the same for the lost. I hate the sin in their life and the habits and things that are keeping them from God. But I don’t hate the person. Chances are, the more messed up their life, the more they’re hurting. God loves us despite our flaws, Jesus died for us despite our failures. Who are we to not extend that same love to the lost people we come across in our own lives?
Opponents of “hate the sin, not the sinner” seem to think it’s a crutch used for a hyper tolerant version of Christianity. Others see it as a passive-aggressive attack against homosexuality. I don’t know about all of that. All I know is that we’re called to love all people. We’re called to love them enough to go after them, to share with them the good news of Jesus that can save their eternal soul.
I know I’m getting long winded, but I think the conflict surrounding the “hate the sin, not the sinner” issue comes from a misunderstanding of what true love is. True love isn’t ultimate tolerance. It’s not loving your baby enough to let him crawl wherever he wishes, even if he wishes to crawl out into a busy street. True love is a willingness to step in, to share what you know, to help identify the aspects in life that are coming between someone and God. True love doesn’t stand by and let a drug addict use until they die. It steps in, says the hard truths, takes the hard actions, and does whatever it can to help the addict stop using. It’s not always appreciated or accepted, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be practiced.
Not too many months ago, I was lost. I didn’t realize it, I didn’t feel like it, but I was. And my brother came to my house, he talked to me, and he said “there’s more for you in life than this.” I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, and I was moderately offended. I felt a little judged by his critique of my life. In the following weeks, the truths of what he’d shared settled in. I wasn’t living my life to the fullest and I wasn’t getting everything out of life that I should be, because I didn’t have God as my number one priority. I came to understand that my brother did a hard thing. He practiced true love, knowing that it wasn’t going to immediately be appreciated or accepted. He didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, but he loved me enough to tell me what I needed to hear. He hated the sin in my life, but he loved the sinner. And he had the boldness to take it one step further, and confront the sin in my life. That’s the perfect illustration of what I’m talking about today. Hate the sin, love the sinner. And do something about it. Practice true love, and do whatever you can to help.
For prayers today, I want to do something personal. Let’s pray for my brother, Phillip. Whoever and wherever you are, just take a second to lift my brother up to the Lord. Pray for blessings and protection for him and his family, and know that I’m praying that prayer right along with you in agreement.
Thanks for sticking with me, I know this post got lengthy. I love all of you, and the greatest thing of all is that God loves you too!