Dehumanizing

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9

The other day I saw a meme that had the phrase, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” But it had a line through the all the words except the first one – love. So it looked like this: “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” At first I liked the intention behind the meme. The idea here is not to judge others for their sin and simply love them as God loves them. And I really like that.

But the more I looked at it the more I could see that, though this meme was well intentioned, it was missing an important truth from scripture. The Bible teaches us that in order to love people well, in order for love to be sincere, in order for us to love what God loves and the way God loves, we must also hate what He hates.

Some people think God doesn’t hate anything, but they probably haven’t read much of the Bible. God hates evil. And sin is a form of evil enacted by people. The reason God hates evil and sin is because sin dehumanizes the person sinning and the person being sinned against. Sin reduces the beauty and purpose of God’s good creation and it separates us from intimacy with God. Sin gives the enemy permission and access to wreak havoc in our lives and in the lives of others.

There is a reason the apostle Paul wrote Romans 12:9 to the early Christians in Rome. He knew loving well–in other words loving people the way God loved people–was connected to hating what God hates. God loves people perfectly and, because of that love, He hates the sin that damages their lives. He hates evil in all its forms.

In order to love the human trafficker well, I must hate human trafficking. Otherwise, I simply enable evil in the world. In order to love the drug addict well, I must hate addiction. With people promoting racism, in order to love them well, I must hate racism. With people promoting various perversions of human sexuality, in order to love them well, I must hate sexual perversion. With people promoting the killing of the unborn, in order to love them well, I must hate murder in all its forms.

In Romans 12:9 I believe Paul was expanding on a passage from the prophet Amos:

Seek good, not evil,
    that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
    just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
    maintain justice in the courts.

Amos 5:14-15

The problem that most of us have with trying to live out the phrase “Love the sinner; hate the sin” is that we struggle to hold the tension of the dichotomy. If we don’t mind a person’s sin that much, we have an easier time loving them. Or, if we hate the sin someone is participating in, we struggle to see the person as more than their sin and then struggle to love them completely. We struggle to separate the identity of a person from their sin long enough to love them and hate the evil they participate in. We so often lump a person in with their sin as if they are the same thing. They’re not.

Loving the sinner while hating the sin is so difficult that it is impossible to do unless we are supernaturally empowered by the love of God. Human love is not strong enough to hold this tension. Human love will make excuses for the sin or enable the sin as an attempt to love the person. Or, human love will hate was is evil and condemn the person sinning. Human love, thinking it is advocating against injustice, will simply heap guilt and shame on the sinner. Only the love of God can rightly love the sinner and hate the sin. And we cannot even attempt to love what is good and hate was is evil without the love of God flowing through us.

Jesus is our perfect example. He said to the woman caught in adultery, “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin“(John 8:11). No condemnation combined with the call to leave a life of sin. Perfect love and acceptance combined with a challenge to holiness. Love for the sinner while hating the sin that was destroying her life.

“Love the sinner; hate the sin.” If you cross out any words you unintentionally cross them all out.

If

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

1 John 4:9-16

So often our default position when it comes to loving God is to love Him with an “if.” We may not say it out loud, but we say it in our hearts. It sounds like this, “God, I’ll worship you if….” “God, I’ll give you all the praise when…..” “Jesus, I’ll live my life for you if…” “Father, I’ll lay my life down for you if…” “I’ll share my faith with others if…” “I’ll step out boldly for You, God, if and when…”

If You protect me…if You provide for me…if You make this turn out alright…if I won’t lose friends…if I don’t have to be uncomfortable…if I won’t be embarrassed…if it’s not too hard…if I don’t experience pain and suffering…etc.

If.

But there have been moments in my life where I’ve left the land of “if” and entered into something better, something that feels totally free. There is a place with the Lord where there is no “if.” It’s a place where we realize that Jesus is the name above every name no matter what is happening in our lives or in the world. There is a place of worship where we love God just because He is God. There is a place of intimacy where we come to know, down to our bones, that He is worthy. Period. No if. He is worthy. He is good. He is loving. He is kind. He is patient. He is full of grace and humility.

I want to live in this land, not the land of “if.” I can feel myself being pulled away from this place and back into the conditional love of the world. And, yet, when I re-enter this place again, I once again experience the freedom of it. It is so incredibly freeing to simply love God because He is. Not to get something. Not in response to something I need Him to do or something He already did. There is freedom when we are in a place of exalting His Name simply because of who He is.

The freedom is that it doesn’t matter what happens to my life. I’ve already died with Christ. I’ve already been raised with Christ. I’m already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. My life is not my own. I was bought at a price…a very high price. So regardless of what happens in my life, God is worthy of extreme worship and devotion. Jesus gets the glory regardless. Jesus is worthy of all honor and praise.

Have you been to this place before? Have you ever left the land of “if?” I invite you to spend time with the Lord and experience it for yourself. Once you get a taste of it, you’ll want more. You’ll want to not just visit but to live every day in that place…that place of total freedom.

Extravagant Love

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 

Matthew 26:6-10

Jesus regularly talked about using money wisely and certainly seemed to shun extravagance. So when this woman wasted this valuable resource, the disciples gave this woman a dose of righteous indignation. Like the many social justice warriors that would come 2000 years later, they thought they were doing the right thing.

But Jesus rejects their form of righteous indignation. When it comes to love and grace, Jesus is extravagant. For Jesus, this was a beautiful act of extravagant love. It was preparing Him for burial and for His own extravagant act of love.

We can get embarrassed by acts that seem wasteful or over-the-top. Extravagant displays of love for God can make the rest of us uncomfortable. We can tend to defend our lack of extravagant love with reasonable arguments about propriety, order and decency.

Yet, this woman was not so prideful that she let propriety, order or her own sense of decency get in the way of her extravagant display of love for Jesus. And we learn that, far from Jesus rejecting her, Jesus is very comfortable with extravagance when it comes to love.

There are times in worship services when people pour their heart out to God extravagantly. It causes a little bit of a scene. It makes people uncomfortable. What about propriety and order? What about decency? Jesus isn’t as concerned about those things as He is about our heart. And if our heart is in the right place while we pour out extravagant love, Jesus is not embarrassed. We shouldn’t be either.

There are other times in worship services when God pours out His Presence on His people in a way that is extravagant. There are times when His Presence comes so powerfully upon people that it causes them to weep, shake, fall down, or cry out. This extravagant love of God pours into the body and soul of a person and can cause some extreme reactions. Propriety and decency go out the window.

God is not unwilling to show His children physical affection. And when the Holy Spirit begins to show up physically in someone’s body or emotions, God is not embarrassed by the result. We shouldn’t be either.

Jesus dying on the cross, paying for our sin, is the ultimate act of extravagant love. When it comes to love, God is very comfortable with extravagance.

Have you been holding back on extravagant acts of love to God? Are propriety, order, and decency being leveraged by your pride as excuses to avoid extravagant love?

If God extravagantly poured out His Presence upon you right in the middle of a worship service, would you be willing to receive it?

This Is Love For God

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:1-5

There is a way to carry out the commands of God that is legalistic, self-righteous, and that comes from a place of performance. This is what we see in the Pharisees. Yet, there is a way to carry out the commands of God that comes from a place of love for God. The opposite of legalism for the Christian is not a life filled with sin and rebellion. The cure for legalism is not licentiousness. We don’t avoid becoming the older son by becoming the prodigal son. The goal is to become like the father (Luke 15:11-32).

John teaches us here in 1 John 5 that love for God looks like following His commands. But unlike the Pharisees, when we live from a place of love the commands of God do not become burdensome. Love for God causes us to want to surrender our whole life to Him and obey everything He tells us to do. Jesus confirms this when he says:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

When we are living from a place of fear, however, obedience feels like performing in order to avoid punishment. It feels like flexing a muscle and seeing how long we can hold it. But John reminds us:

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:17-19

Living and obeying from a place of loving God starts with receiving His love for us. When we bask in His love for us, we then return love to Him by joyfully obeying Him. We end up wanting to live how He has commanded us to live in the scriptures. We want to do what He has commanded us to do personally. We don’t obey out of fear. We are compelled to obey out of love.

Obedience from a place of fear and performance is worried about what God will do to us if we don’t obey. Obedience from a place of love understands that He is a gracious God, and that it is not Him but instead our disobedience that harms our love relationship with Him. Obedience from a place of love understands that whatever He’s asked of us is the best for His Kingdom. And His Kingdom is what we are seeking first above our own comfort and life-plans (Matthew 6:33). It’s not about us in the end, but about Him.

This mindset is where we find the victory. This is where we overcome the world. The world cannot kill something that’s already been put to death. The world cannot steal something that has already been surrendered into the hands of the Lord. We can trust Him to be faithful as He guides and directs our life.