Love the sinner but hate the sin, or as Gandhi wrote in his autobiography “hate the sin and not the sinner.” It has become an overused and sometimes debated cliche but where did it come from? According to Fr. Vincent Serpa at Catholic Answers it was Saint Augustine. In 424 he wrote Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” But a common response these days is that Christ never said those words or that it’s not in the Bible. That response is the topic I wish to take up.
There is no single verse of scripture that we can site by chapter and verse number that says love the sinner, hate the sin. You will also not find the word trinity in the Bible yet most Christians believe in it. We use the word trinity to describe the triune nature of God who manifests himself in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no verse of scripture that says abortion is morally wrong but when seeking the counsel of God’s Word we find many references to the value of human life, that we are made in God’s image, and commandments to not commit murder. The Bible does not say, in so many words, to not look at internet porn but imagine someone arguing with their pastor or Sunday School teacher that it’s okay because the Bible doesn’t say anything about it.
I know what you’re thinking: the stress of working in full time ministry with a 14 month old at home has finally caused me to crack. I reached a breaking point if my sermon is on changing diapers. It’s not as bad as all that. Let me explain.
Last week I preached this sermon on Galatians 4. It’s about God adopting us into his family. I had three well-defined points, as a good Baptist preacher should. Today I preached that same sermon for our students in their Sunday a.m. chapel service. I can’t take for granted that 6-12 graders know their Bible stories that way my church congregation does. I cut some of the scripture citations and needed a more colorful analogy or two. The first point in the sermon is that we are naturally the enemies of God. He says “Do this” and instead we do that. Adam and Eve are the first example, and not much has changed since. I talked about how cute Johannah is; all our students know this to be true. But when we’re changing a diaper, sometimes she quits being so cute. If she sits up, rolls over, or otherwise tries to escape then everything takes longer. We have to do things twice; or three times. The students all smiled, nodded and laughed. Then I pointed out that in my history class some of them are the same way. I have to repeat myself and/or do things twice. Sometimes three times. That’s our nature.
It gets worse. God sent his Son. Like the father of the prodigal, God waits and watches down the road for us to come home. The prodigal son (Luke 15) spent a fortune on good food, good wine and loose women. Eventually he hit rock bottom, and desired the same slop that he fed pigs. He had to learn that lesson the hard way. You couldn’t have told him any different, and if the father had come looking for him any sooner, he would have ran as fast as he could in the other direction. We were all wallowing (or are still wallowing) in our own filth. We are slaves to sin, whatever sin you want to fill in the blank with. If my daughter Johannah has filled her diaper, then she is basically sitting there in her own mess. She stinks. Yet when I reach for her she runs away. She ducks and dodges. Her natural impulse is to escape the diaper change. Are we any different? We wallow in our filthy sin, in our own mess, and push God away even as he wants to clean us.
God loved us when we were unlovable. That’s the Gospel. And if you have kids, had kids, or know parents with new kids, fell free to preach the Gospel according to dirty diapers.
Josh Duggar has confessed to being “the biggest hypocrite ever.” Is he really the biggest hypocrite ever, or is this just his first honest assessment in a long time and admission that he, like all of us, will always fall short?
David was a man after God’s own heart that committed lust, adultery, murder and conspiracy. The Apostle Paul lamented that he did the thing he wanted not to do but left undone those things he should. When they brought Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8, he suggested the one without sin should cast the first stone. One at a time they each walked away. A hypocrite in the Greek language of the New Testament was an actor. Is that not what we all do every day? From drinking coffee before work so we can act like we are not tired to smiling at others when we are not truly happy, we put on a public show every day. As Christians we should be the first to admit; confess; proclaim that we are not better than anybody else. We need to be honest with ourselves, before God and before others.
Perhaps admitting that we fall short – and we all all short compared to the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the perfection which God requires – perhaps admitting that we are not perfect and do not have to be will allow us to deal with issues instead of covering them up and keep us from getting to the point that Duggar and others sometimes come to. None is righteous, no not one. Acting like we are or can be leads lies, secrets and cover ups.
I have been physically ill for much of this week and there hasn’t been a new post since Monday. I’ve been digging in the archives and to be honest probably don’t post “reruns” often enough. It’s been six years since this post was published. There is constant turnover online as blogs disappear and new ones are created. I certainly have many more friends and followers today than way back when. And of course some things are worth repeating. From July 2008, here is Lessons from the Garden of Eden.
7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. -Gen. 2:7-9
Lesson 1: We are special to God. Human beings are made in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27). What does that mean exactly? I’m not even sure. People will tell you what it means, but truthfully, we don’t really know for sure. We do that no other being in creation is described this way. Continue reading →
Don’t you love it when non-Christians, atheists, gay-rights activists, etc. reference the Bible and tell you that you’re reading it wrong? “Most of the Old Testament was negated and set straight by Jesus” and “You go out and stone a bunch of people, I’ll be living to please Jesus in the meantime” are on the list of things I’ve been told. I was told “the Old Testament pretty much doesn’t matter anymore” and the evidence for this claim was Jesus responding to the question about the greatest commandment. Kudos for knowing Jesus’ answer to that question; Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. A second is just like it, love your neighbor as yourself. This was an example of Jesus setting things straight.
In lieu of yesterday’s post I wish to clarify a couple of issues (before anyone asks).
1. I am Southern Baptist. While I did not grow up in the SBC I have been a member of SBC churches since 2000. I was ordained as a deacon in 2002 and as a minister in 2004. My wife and I served full time on the mission field (stateside) for nine years, 2003 to 2012. I graduated from a Baptist college, attended BSU as a student, taught in a private Baptist school, and led BCM for seven years. The Master’s Table is listed in SBC Voices, a directory of Southern Baptist blogs. This very week my wife and I are teaching 5th and 6th graders during Colossal Coaster World and I’m driving the church bus to VBS. While I may not always agree with everything the organization does as a whole, I am certainly still a part of it. The reason I can say so much about the SBC’s response to the Boy Scouts issue is that’s the denomination I know the most about. Continue reading →