Can we love the sinner and hate the sin?

Can we show compassion for the sinner without compromise or approval for the sin? Jesus did (Romans 5:8, Proverbs 6:16-19). He prayed for those who crucified him (Luke 23:34) and taught his disciples this lesson: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Jesus ate with publicans and sinners (Luke 15:1-2) and, in response to the criticism of the self-righteous Pharisees, gave the lesson on the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the wayward son. Jesus went to the home of Zaccheus, a man who was chief among the tax collectors (Luke 19:1-10), and still maintained his moral righteousness.

This lesson is written with these principles in mind.

  1. We live in a “crooked and perverse nation” (Philippians 2:15) with no expectation that moral and doctrinal conditions will get any better (II Timothy 3:1-7).
  2. We are told to “shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16) and “to speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
  3. To shut off contact and to have nothing to do with this wicked world would be to violate the command of Jesus. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither to men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Paul tells us in I Corinthians 5:10 that there is only one way to get away from all wickedness. We would need to “go out of the world.”
  4. The salvation of one precious lost soul and the strengthening of one weak brother is so important that we are to be careful to avoid any action, language, or attitude that becomes a stumbling block. “And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (I Corinthians 8:11-13).
  5. There were members in the Lord’s church at Corinth who had been changed from a terrible life of sin. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11). Even today, those in the depths of condemnation can be washed, sanctified, and justified. They need a loving Christian witness and the prayers of God’s people. Very often, I must be reminded of John 3:17-18. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
  6. In II Corinthians 6:9-11, God is not giving approval for those members to continue in that wicked life after their salvation. In fact, He instructs the same church to remove from their membership those who continue in these lifestyles (I Corinthians 5).

This lesson has a personal application in my life. I have served as a civilian chaplain for about twelve years with the United States Army. I have preached in monthly chapel services, participated in ceremonies sending soldiers off to Iraq and Afghanistan, and welcoming those soldiers back home. I have privately met with hundreds of soldiers for counsel and prayer about issues in the life of the soldier and his family. Recently, I participated with a panel of Army doctors that held a large conference on the subject of the rise of suicides in the Army. My assignment was to answer questions from family and friends about how they offer comfort in the death by suicide. That work has given me an opportunity to serve the Lord and to develop friendships.

Now, the Army has taken steps in the direction of approval of homosexuals serving openly in all branches of our military. I do not like the new policy. I believe that it is against the moral teaching of the Holy Bible and that it will be harmful to our country. Several soldiers expressed to me their concerns about reenlistment in light of these proposed policy changes. In order to make a decision on remaining as a chaplain, I have been seriously praying and seeking answers in the inspired word of God.

One area of study that helped me come to a better understanding of this issue was the Old Testament example of four Godly men serving God in wicked, pagan governments who were used of God.

  1. Joseph, by God’s leadership (Genesis 45:7-8), was sold as a slave into Egypt and rose to a position of power, next to the Pharaoh, in that ungodly pagan government. Joseph’s service was not a compromise.
  2. Moses, by God’s leadership, was taken into the home of Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:5-10) where he was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:20-22). His position in Egypt was a step in God’s plan to deliver the nation of Israel from bondage.
  3. Daniel, by God’s leadership, was carried as a captive into Babylon, one of the most morally depraved nations that ever existed. In the midst of that wicked nation, Daniel was a loving example of godliness, not compromise.
  4. Nehemiah, a slave in the Persian empire, was in a position in the Persian government to have influence that helped to get supplies and Jewish people back to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the city (Nehemiah 2:4-11). Nehemiah had tremendous power in his prayers to God.

These four men had important positions and responsibilities (which they faithfully fulfilled) in these ungodly pagan governments. Right in the midst of their wicked environment, they worshiped and served the one true LORD God.

These four men were like lighthouses along the rough shores of moral depravity. They were placed by Divine Providence to be God’s light in the darkness.

The Roman Army in New Testament times was not, as a whole, the example of Christian virtue. We do have the example of at least two men of faith in the Roman Army.

  1. A centurion came to Jesus on behalf of his sick servant (Matthew 8:5-10).
  2. Cornelius, the centurion sent for Simon Peter to come to his home (Acts 10). One of the most important messages that Peter delivered was in the home of that Roman soldier. “To him [Jesus Christ] give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).

The study of the four Old Testament servants of God and the two New Testament soldiers helped me to come to this settled conviction in my heart. My plans are to continue to serve as an Army chaplain as long as possible. I hope to use my influence and example to present the wonderful message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the soldiers in my circle of contacts.

If one of my pastor brethren faced the same decision and reached a different conclusion, I would respect his decision and would consider his decision in the light of Romans 14:1-12, which shows us that we have individual responsibilities and can make our own private decisions in some situations. Where there is strong friendship and Christian fellowship, we can have differences of opinion on how each individual meets their personal responsibilities without breaking the fellowship.

When Paul and Barnabas disagreed about taking John Mark with them, no doctrinal or moral standards were compromised by Paul or Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41).

The doctrinal standards and moral standards of the Bible are not subject to our own opinions. We must stand in complete agreement on these issues (I Corinthians 1:10). “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).

I really like Christmas time and have very pleasant memories of many kin folks getting together at my grandparents. Our large family would select and decorate the tree. The special meals were wonderful, the presents were modest, but that time was filled with delight and surprise. Mom always worked hard on her sewing machine using feed and fertilizer sacks to make presents for all seven kids. My own children and grandchildren have always had so much fun at Christmas time. I still love to decorate my home for Christmas. That is a private personal choice.

I have never approved of setting up a Christmas tree for our church services. Some church members do not see Christmas as a good time. They see only the pagan customs that have come down through the years. I respect their personal views on the subject and will not push my personal choice on the whole church body.

We can choose how we will use our opportunities to be a witness for Christ. For example, a Christian friend of mine near my home town in Mississippi worked up until his recent retirement in a supervisory position in a large paper mill operated by a nationwide company. Company officials throw big parties where liquor is in abundance. Some of the hundreds of workers in the plant are far from Christian standards in their language and conduct. Through many years of faithful labor and Christian testimony, he has an outstanding reputation in that company, in his church, and in his community.

He was part of the company and he was joined with the workers in the operation of the plant, but the command of II Corinthians 6:14 did not require him to cut all ties with that company. That scripture does not require me to resign my work as an Army chaplain in the sense of commanding me to remain apart and separate from the unbelievers. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?”

This chapter can be considered for individual responsibility, but one of the best ways to consider this scripture is to apply it to the work of the Corinthian church body. That church was the temple of God (II Corinthians 6:16) and, as God’s temple and God’s spiritual house (I Peter 2:5-9 and I Timothy 3:15), the Corinthian church was not to be joined in fellowship and cooperation with false religious systems. Like Jesus, these people could eat lunch with publicans and sinners, but they could not bring in a pagan teacher to help with their church services.

I can present the gospel message in the Army chapel to people of unscriptural moral and religious views, and I can sit down at the table and share a meal with the most wicked person, but I can not bring in a false teacher to speak in our church services. That would be a compromise in violation of II Corinthians 6:14-17.

Consider the witness of Jesus Christ to the woman at Jacob’s well. He knew everything about her including her five husbands and that she was living with a man without marriage. What Jesus said in John 4 does not contradict Matthew 19:3-9.

In the message of Jesus, we see friendliness, tenderness, compassion, and concern for her eternal soul. He offered her the everlasting water of life. “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman which testified, he told me all that ever I did” (John 4:39).

As we live and work to make the gospel of Jesus Christ lovingly known to sinners, may God help us to see what they can become by the grace of God. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17) A great blessing of serving the Lord is to see people changed by God’s grace, as the following testimonies show (written in the Mongolian language and translated by a Mongolian who understands some English).

The following testimony is from Enkhjargal, who now leads singing at Rich Heart Baptist Church and works with Missionary Dennis Carrell in Alcohol Counseling classes.

“Everywhere around me at home, everybody was scared and frightened, and they tried to escape from me when I would come home drunk. On December 14, 2004, I was sentenced to the Maint Alcohol Addiction treatment place. While I was there, I sat in an abuse program class [This was a monthly class taught by Brother Dennis Carrell and Brother Egi]. While sitting, I thought about many things and understood my worth. Then, I truly understood that there is a Lord who loves me and who can cleanse me from all the dirt in my life. Since that moment, I turned to Christ, believed in everything he has done for me, and made a willful hard decision to refuse the lifestyle from my previous life. On February 20, 2005, I first came to church. Since that moment, my life had a meaning, and my family life got peaceful and nice. Since the time I had accepted Christ into my heart, I made a decision to dedicate my life to the Lord’s work. I testified the Lord Jesus Christ and started to dedicate myself in sharing Gospel. My family and friends were amazed, were happy, and supported me.”

One of the most precious families that I met in Mongolia is Erdenebayer, his wife, Davamaa, and their three children. By his own testimony, we know that he was a drunkard, a thief, and a smuggler. For the past year, our church has provided the financial support for him to establish a new congregation in Ugginoor. The following testimony was prepared by Erdenebayer as part of a report to our church.

“When we received your generous offering, we were very thankful and happy. I want you to trust me that I am going to spend this offering God sent through you for the work of the good news of God as needed. I accepted Christ six years ago in 2003. Before that, I lived a life of emptiness and had nothing. When I came into the hands of God, I was blessed with a beautiful family, three sons, a pastor who serves according to word of God, a church, and especially my Lord Jesus Christ.”

“...For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth...” (Romans 1:16).

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