Preparing for the Refugee Column

A couple of posts ago, I made a joke about “lesbyterians,” which resulted in some objections and ongoing discussion. I have made a particular distinction on this topic before, but I really should mention it again. You could look here, or put apostle and refugee in the search bar and see what happens. My rhetorical deployments are not accidental, and these things are not happening because I can’t help it. This is, believe it or not, rule-guided behavior.

First, the distinction again — I believe that everyone involved in evangelism, apologetics, and any form of cultural engagement needs to have a fixed distinction in his mind such that he can tell the difference between apostles of the world and refugees from the world.

For many compromised Christians, the uber-value is that we must be “nice.” This is assumed to be a universal value, but because an antithesis is necessarily pervasive in and through all things, some things must be rejected. So whenever someone on the “side of history” gets really nasty, he must cover for himself by posing as a victim — he reacted this way because somebody else wasn’t very nice to him. The baker wouldn’t bake him a cake with a swastika, Confederate flag, crossed AK-47s, two grooms on it. So the sin of not being nice is located with the perpetrator of the hate crime, and everybody downstream from that ostensible sin gets to be vicious.

So Christians must not be nice, as though that were some kind of stand-alone value. Politeness is not what we are called to — Jesus was frequently quite impolite. He made a whip to clear the Temple. In Matthew 23, He gave the Pharisees the dressing down of a lifetime. He upset synagogue rulers for healing people on the Sabbath instead of doing something suitably religious. The Son of God came to live among us, and did so in such a way as to get crucified by all the respectable people. Was Jesus nice?

The greatest commandment is love, not niceness. And as C.S. Lewis pointed out somewhere, anger is what love bleeds when you cut it. You cannot love without hating, and if you do not hate, you know nothing of love. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13). To love the wolves is to hate the sheep, and vice versa. Love the termites, hate the house. Hate the man, love the cancer. This is not a difficult principle.

The difficulty is in the application. Sometimes it is hard to deal with the tares without harming the wheat. When that is the case, you have to let the tares go. Chemo will frequently make the healthy parts of the body sick in order to make the cancer sicker. Sometimes refugees, who are hurting refugees, have been misled and taught badly by the apostles, and they might be repeating some of the lies they have heard. Sometimes they might take it hard because you hurt what is hurting them. There are difficulties here, and wisdom is required.

Now when I take a crack at the lesbyterians, I am attacking false teachers who prance in the chancel like they belonged there or something. They are the sleek apostles of the world. They are like a bilge full of sea water. They are a terrible threat, and should be treated like one.

But people who are mangled by the false teachers are in another category entirely. Jesus said we were to disciple the nations of the world, which is not the same thing as hiding from the nations of the world. There is no way to bring unconverted sinners to Christ without making a mess. Oftentimes, the first people to come are the ones who were worked over by the world in the worst possible ways. They come into the church, and thanks to God, but they track things in also.

So there are two ways to muddle the distinction between apostles and refugees. One is to embrace the secular form of the nice imperative, and to make friendly with the apostles and refugees together, all in the name of constructive dialog. The other approach is that taken by a reactionary form of the niceness imperative — what might be called the ghetto-ization of nice. Cleaned up and respectable Christians retreat to their enclaves, and all refugees are treated like apostles — and therefore shut out. Here we are in our own little cozy spot, everybody’s nice, nobody has a tattoo, and so let’s keep it that way.

We are called to hate folly. Sometimes we don’t even answer a fool because we don’t ever want to become like him (Prov. 26:4). Other times we take the fool down a couple of notches because he was starting to think that sexual dyslexia was a lawful form of xes (Prov. 26:5). Sometimes we strike a fool because we want the simple to learn wisdom (Prov. 19:25). Is this because we are proud and full of ourselves? Not a bit of it — that would be folly. Lady Wisdom sets the table, opens the door, and leaves the light on. Please come in (Prov. 9:4-6). Refugees are welcome. A refugee column would be welcome.

Share on Facebook108Tweet about this on Twitter5Share on Google+4Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or semi-Pelagian.

42 thoughts on “Preparing for the Refugee Column

  1. As a former refugee who brought in nore than his fair share of world on his boots, I honestly only came in to the church because it did not have a puddle of worldiness in it. If it had been there, I never wiuld have entered. Honestly if all the church had to offer was more of world with a picture of Jesus, no thank you. 

  2. Other times we take the fool down a couple of notches because he was starting to think that sexual dyslexia was a lawful form of xes.  Sexual dyslexia = doesn’t understand the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sexual behaviour?  xes = xxx? A fool equates the 2? Someone help me out here.

  3. bethyada, xes is sex backwards, i.e. sex with dyslexia. I think sexual dyslexia is not being able to tell the sexes apart, sexually.

  4. bethyada–dyslexics often spell words backwards. Have you seen the bumper sticker

     
    Dyslexics of the world!  UNTIE!

     
    Well a sexual dyslexic engages in xes, not sex.

  5. Was Jesus nice?

    Ok, but two things, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t much care about what offensive language you use.  One, whenever you do this kind of thing, whatever is supposed to happen doesn’t seem to happen.  Instead, it offends or annoys people, who then proceed to object, and then the entire topic is derailed and instead revolves around this big discussion of what words everyone is supposed to use.  In other words, I can appreciate that you don’t want to be neutered-polite, but isn’t it possible that you are being impolite in a hopelessly counterproductive way? Two, isn’t it at least plausible that Jesus, being the Son of God and all, is allowed to take certain liberties and engage in certain behaviors that we might be best advised to avoid on account of being simply mundane mortals?

  6. Matt said: 

    Two, isn’t it at least plausible that Jesus, being the Son of God and all, is allowed to take certain liberties and engage in certain behaviors that we might be best advised to avoid on account of being simply mundane mortals?

    Two problems with this: if that’s the case, you’d have to argue that one of the points of the incarnation was God teaching us not to be like His son. “I’m going to have my Son take on human flesh and…show you what not to do.” The other problem is you still have to account for Ezekiel, Paul, John the Baptist, and a whole host of other characters who were not exactly “nice.” They had every bit as much of a bite as Jesus did.
    Isn’t it far more plausible that when the this kind of language rolls out of the mouth of someone like Pastor Wilson, the people caught in their sin are offended because they’re wrong and looking for somewhere to point the finger? I’d buy that long before I would buy weird ways around the incarnation, Jesus’s own words, and having to explain away half the other authors of Scripture.
     

  7. “Is God nice?  I doubt it.”–Whittaker Chambers (in letter to William F. Buckley?)   (Chambers was a Quaker, and I think he was referring to the awful things that Providence allows in history, e.g. the USSR; but it’s a well-pointed line, loosely relevant.)

  8. And speaking of nice, let us not forget Elisha’s response to some mouthy youth.

    2 Kings 2:23-25 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!”  When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.

  9. What a fantastic message! I have been dealing with so many “nice” Christians I feel like tearing my hair out. When we call sin out for what it is, against God, we are called mean. Told we’re pushing sinners away. It makes one so so weary. Thank you for this encouragement.

  10. Keep it up Doug.  I too, am so sick of ‘nice’ phony Christians.  I think another term for them would be ‘lukewarm’. The old “Angel of Light” is shining brightly on them.

  11. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.
     

                                                                                                                                                   
     
    ahem.

  12. “There is no way to bring unconverted sinners to Christ without making a mess.” And there’s no way to share the gospel without some conflict. Even when we do our best to defend the faith with gentleness and respect, we are confronting people with rebellious hearts and false worldviews. So, there will be some conflict and there will be some type of mess. We need not create undue conflicts and messes, but it’s good to realize there will be friction and some stuff tracked in, as Doug writes.

  13. In the land of the libertine it is neither courageous nor helpful to go about bashing pharisees. This is just a technique for timid Christians to show soft allegence to the hedonistic spirit of the age.

  14. Matt asks:

    “I can appreciate that you don’t want to be neutered-polite, but isn’t it possible that you are being impolite in a hopelessly counterproductive way?”

    Our culture celebrates being offended as if it were a civil right, and it revels in using false guilt to manipulate others and shut down discussion.  So their offense and their reaction is nearly irrelevant to how we should behave.  However, as Doug points out here (and in Serrated Edge), this doesn’t mean we are free to start firing offensive language in any direction without any standard.  We have to be extremely deliberate in the use of offensive language.  We have to discern between the refugees and the apostles of the world, the civilian sinners and the enemy combatants, and between mom and lesbyterians.  We have to know who is in authority and called as shepherd to deliver the offense.  But when it is time to offend and to poke the eye of unbelief, even obscenity is on the table, and cursing.  It’s a subject for study, especially for those who are charged with defending the sheep.
                                                                                                                                                                    What I appreciate about Wilson is that he attempts to lead by practical example (and take the arrows)(often from Christian prigs) when others either run for the hills, or only refer to such confrontations in a theoretical sense.  Many Christians are looking far and wide for any kind of mature example of how to resist our culture and push back.  We should know that Christ is for the public square, but who is willing to carry the fight there?  Very few.  I hope God will raise up real men in the Church, who are trained in the use of serrated words, because the problem is a lack of confidence and resolve with us.  The issue is not that some unbeliever got offended, but how and why.  We need Offensiveness 101.

  15. My first concern is that naturally fallen people don’t need a lot of encouragement to avoid too much niceness.  If I were instructed on religious grounds and for religious motives to become less nice and more direct/more cutting/more deliberately offensive in my dealings with others (no matter how awful they may be), that instruction is appealing to the demon on my shoulder, not the angel.  I am assuming that we are not defining niceness as a refusal to describe sin as sin.  But I constantly need to remind myself that people are fragile, that I have no right to cause unnecessary pain, that most people muddle along doing the best they can, that cruel words drive people away from the church rather than invite people into it, and that if I take any pleasure in plain speaking for its own sake, then I have failed in love.  I do this often enough all on my own without any encouragement to cut out the niceness and call a spade a spade.  For me, the language Jesus used to the Pharisees is something I can’t copy because I am not our Lord.  He could see into people’s minds and hearts; I can’t.  He knew how to call to repentance without producing hopelessness and despair; I don’t.  But I know from understanding myself that while opposition, especially hostile opposition, stiffens my spine and makes me dig in my heels, love melts my heart and opens my mind to the truth.  If this is true for me, it must be equally true for others. 

  16. @Jill. Scripture commands us to be imitators of Christ. It does not say imitate these things that Christ did, but not these things. What scripture do you appeal to that exempts you from following his example re pharisees?

  17. Jill Smith wrote:

    “For me, the language Jesus used to the Pharisees is something I can’t copy because I am not our Lord.  He could see into people’s minds and hearts; I can’t.  He knew how to call to repentance without producing hopelessness and despair; I don’t. … If this is true for me, it must be equally true for others.

    Someone already addressed this gross fallacy earlier by pointing out that it wasn’t just Jesus who engaged in this warrior-like confrontational behavior.  They listed several other Scriptural examples.  However, I will grant to Jill the point that not all of us are called to be on the front lines.  Not all of us have responsibility to protect and defend others.  However, I imagine it is a joy for those who are called when they are not being shot in the back by arrows from fellow Christians who don’t understand the nature of spiritual and cultural warfare.  Jill shouldn’t feel any external guilt or pressure to take up a sword and join the front lines, but a little more awareness and support would be very encouraging to those who may have a true shepherd’s calling.

  18. @katecho, I think you are right that each Christian has different responsibilities as members of the body. But in reading her post it seems like she is saying she is choosing to follow her own example rather than Christ’s. That seems like a problematic position to take no?

  19. Katecho, well said: “Our culture celebrates being offended as if it were a civil right, and it revels in using false guilt to manipulate others and shut down discussion.”

  20. I agree with Pastor Wilson: “To love the wolves is to hate the sheep, and vice versa.”  Mere politeness isn’t going to effectively minister to the sheep.  Nor is politeness going to effectively chase away the wolves (i.e. protect the flock).  Ideally, we need a pastor/shepherd who is able to do both well.  Yet pastors are flawed and imperfect, too.  Thus, if we have to error on the side of caution, I’d rather the shepherd protect his sheep from the wolves.  Let me put it this way.  The Church is the bride of Christ, and Christ lays down His life for the Church.  This is also the Biblical portrait of marriage between a husband and wife.  If some wolf (i.e. anyone who’s seeking to harm my wife) is truly attempting to harm my wife, should I merely be polite?  Or should I be more stern and protective?  When one views it in this light, it is clear what the role of a pastor/shepherd needs to be for his flock.  There are real wolves out there, and they are hungry.  And there’s a real devil out there, and he is on the loose.  Read Jesus prayer to the Father in John 17:14-15.  Thus, if Jesus is concerned about the evil one, then so should all of us be, especially pastors who are charged with shepherding and protecting their flock.  The job of pastors (just like fathers) is to protect their sheep from the wolves.  

  21. For what it’s worth, I’m a naturally fallen person who hates conflict. Being nice and trying to avoid conflict is an instinct that does not serve my marriage well, for instance. Someone in a shepherding role with this instinct would need a lot of reminding about the dangers of niceness, I would imagine.

  22. Katie, well said, and very true.  Those who merely want to avoid conflict at all costs tend not to see the dangers down the road.  Thus, they become people-pleasers and enablers, which often results in those who are being enabled to further harm themselves and others.  As all adults should know, avoiding conflict doesn’t make it go away, it just resurfaces again at a later point; yet all the while it continues to build resentments and walls, which can lead to ruined relationships.  In marriage, if husbands and wives don’t learn how to resolve conflict, the marriage will be shallow and miserable.  In parenting, if parents choose to be their kids’ buddy instead of their God-ordained role as parents, they will enable their kids to disregard authority and become self-absorbed brats.  In pastoring, if pastors choose to water down the gospel for the sake of being popular and liked, then their ministry is already on the decline and the devil has gotten a foothold.  Such are the consequences of avoiding conflict at all costs.

  23. Katecho, your use of ellipsis in quoting my post suggests that it is my inability to see into minds and hearts, or to call to repentance without producing despair, that I believe must be true for others as well as for myself.  If you reread my post, you will see that what I claimed to be true for others as well as myself is the power of love to melt opposition and open minds to the truth.  This is indeed a fallacy on my part, but it is quite different from claiming that because I cannot know minds or hearts, nobody can. //Nonetheless, although I have read each post carefully and, I hope, with an open mind, I still believe that for many of us, our fallen nature makes any injunction to hate our enemies–no matter with what wolf-like rapacity they threaten the sheep–spiritually dangerous.  God can hate with a pure, righteous, and holy hatred; I don’t believe that I can.  I have not advanced very far in humility and self-knowledge, but I have learned that I cannot trust myself, my motives, my instincts, or my judgment.  When I debate Christian doctrine with an unbeliever, I am not certain how much my zeal is undermined by a pleasure in being right, in being persuasive, and in proving someone wrong.  If God made me reasonably articulate and quick-witted, it was not so I could delight in bludgeoning my opponent with the perfect retort, the sarcastic phrase that is intended to wound, and the cheap cleverness that gets a laugh at someone else’s expense.  To my dismay I find this happening often enough without my being encouraged to use this facile fluency to smite the enemies of God (even assuming that I always identify them correctly). //JDM wonders if I am choosing to follow my own example rather than Christ’s.  This would be a legitimate criticism if I had in fact said that the greatest Christian virtue is niceness and that we should imitate our Lord only insofar as He is “nice.”  Following my own example makes it sound as if I think I am such a kind and gentle person that  I could teach our Lord something about tolerance and niceness.  As I explained earlier, the reverse is true.  I am neither wise nor righteous nor loving enough to safely take on the role of moral scourge to others.  What good would I do in attacking the sins of others if the result for me is the cultivation of a diabolical pleasure in finding fault?  When I have imitated our Lord to such good purpose that I am genuinely patient, loving, righteous, and wise, it may be time to focus on others’ sins rather than my own. //Katie makes an excellent point.  Timidity and the fear of conflict are not virtues, and I must not allow them to silence me when speech is called for.  If someone confides in me that she is contemplating an abortion, I can’t say, “Do what you think best; God will understand.”  But although I am passionately pro-life, neither would I call her a baby-killer. //I realize this brings us back to a distinction made formerly that how one should speak to the lost soul who is contemplating abortion is quite different from how one would speak to Christian leaders who support abortion rights.  But even so, am I permitted to hate them and to express that hatred, or should my opposition and moral condemnation be expressed in the way most likely to make them stop supporting evil? //Perhaps this is an area in which Catholic teaching differs so much that we are unlikely ever to see eye to eye.  That is okay.  But the issue should not be defined as whether I support niceness at the expense of truth, or whether I think I know better than our Lord.  I don’t.

  24. Jill, very thoughtful comments.  This was good: “When I debate Christian doctrine with an unbeliever, I am not certain how much my zeal is undermined by a pleasure in being right, in being persuasive, and in proving someone wrong.”  And this: “If God made me reasonably articulate and quick-witted, it was not so I could delight in bludgeoning my opponent with the perfect retort, the sarcastic phrase that is intended to wound, and the cheap cleverness that gets a laugh at someone else’s expense.”  Both statements very well written and very applicable.  It is wise to examine our motives regarding what we say and how we say it.  Certainly, zeal and passion can sometimes get the best of us.  Yet other times we need that zeal and passion.  But like most everything else, it’s usually prudent to seek balance and moderation. 

  25. Jill, I think the spirit of what you’re saying is excellent. But I want to hear what you think about this: The Bible calls Christians to a number of different actions/feelings/thoughts. We are responsible to do all of them the best we can, with the help of God’s Spirit. If I’m told to be humble, I am right to consider that on the far side of humility is the corresponding vice, say cowardice or something. And I suppose most things we’re commanded have this potential; we could mess any command up, almost. Now add this: The Bible tells us to hate. And we’re given examples of holy hatred. I’m thinking of the Psalms, of God’s own hatred, and of the statements from Paul for example that certainly are not love. So if the Bible does tell us to hate, as it tells us many other things, must we not handle this command the best we can, not shrinking back from it due to the potential that we might fall into the vice at the far side? I hear you very deeply; my nature also is only too ready to twist the hate-command into an ugly, self-serving direction. But then, so also would my nature do with the love command. I respect the spirit of your comments very much, not because I’m trying to be “nice,” but because I think part of them reflect deep, biblical wisdom. Very interested to hear what you think on this

  26. Dave, this is such an excellent question and I have been sitting here trying to figure out what I think. I think your first point is key: every virtue can’t exist in a vacuum but must be seen in relation to other virtues as well as to the vice that can result when one virtue is emphasized at the expense of every other. For example, kindness is good but not when it results in unkindness to someone who is not the immediate object of my concern. Mercy is good (and feels good) but can result in injustice to the innocent. Gentleness is good but not when it becomes an excuse for cowardice. And, therefore, denouncing vice is good but not when it brings out wicked qualities within ourselves. So weDave, this is such an excellent question and I have been sitting here trying to figure out what I must first make sure that every God-inspired emotion is tempered by justice and prudence. Bestowing charity feels good but can cause harm if it is done without wisdom and a concern for the recipients long-term good. Easy forgiveness feels good but not if it encourages the person in further vice. And it is easy to cultivate within myself the emotions which seem to come naturally and to think that is all God expects of me. It is also easy to mistake an easy going disposition for virtue, forgetting, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, that an equable temperament is God’s gift to me, not mine to God. So I think I get all that, although I don’t think about it enough. Now to try to apply this to holy hatred. My church counsels me to hate the sin without hating the sinner. But I have also been told by my Protestant friends that this is not a distinction found in the Bible. Whether or not this is true, I find it a distinction I can made in my mind more easily than in my heart. I spent some time thinking about Tiller the late-term abortionist who claimed to be Christian and who arranged funeral services for some of the babies he aborted. Clearly there are no words that can do justice to my loathing for the evil he did. I believe that the mere fact of holding church funerals shows that he believed the babies were living children of God–which made it impossible for him to claim as a defense a belief that personhood begins at birth. When he was killed at church, I was glad. I felt the same emotion I would have felt if someone had succeeded in killing Hitler or Pol Pot. I had trouble understanding people who censured me for feeling this way, and I had a little trouble understanding why some Christians thought the killer’s act was morally equivalent to Tiller’s. When I retorted that true equivalence would have been stunning him with a blunt instrument and then sucking out his brains with a shop-vac a few thousand times, they warned me that I was engaging in deadly and unholy hatred.//And perhaps I was, and here is where I struggle. What would holy hatred look like in reference to Tiller? How would God want me to feel about him, his death, and the man who killed him? I am using him as my example because there can be no real dispute among Christians about the wickedness of his conduct and the blasphemy of invoking God as he slaughtered God’s innocents. If my feelings were sinful, were they mitigated by my hoping that in his last few seconds he repented and that I don’t want him to be in hell? Or is my hoping that even Tiller has avoided the agony of an eternity without God mere sinful sentimentality? Is my hatred less culpable because my preference would have been for him to repent, close his clinic, and try to open people’s eyes to what happens during a lage term abortion? Does the fact that I rejoiced in Dr. Nathanson’s repentance and subsequent crusade rather than wishing him to die in his sins show that my heart was in the right place? // C.S. Lewis whom I deeply admire handles the distinction between hate the sin/not the sinner by reminding us that we are quite capable of applying this distinction to ourselves. We seem able to hate our sins without hating ourselves. I can do this successfully with minor sins but not with things I do that really outrage my own conscience. I hate myself more than someone else because I can find for the other person the mitigations that I dare not find apply to myself. // I realize that instead of giving answers, I have just asked more questions–which shows the extent of my struggle with this issue. I must add to this that I am selective in my moral outrage. God may also hate the sins that especially outrage me (cruelty, abuse of the young and the defenseless of any age, the betrayal of marriage vows) but that does not mean that I equally hate all the sins that the Bible says God hates. I think pornography is evil but I can’t work up much hatred for those who are entrapped by it. And so on. I think my answer must be that just as I must try to cultivate love for the things God loves, I must cultivate revulsion against the things God hates. But because I have difficulty in distinguishing between the sin and the sinner, I must be extremely careful to ensure that no purely human element enters into it. I must not hope that God treats the wicked more harshly than He has treated me; I must not take a perverse delight in contemplating their destruction; I must not deliberately stir up my human hatred by magnifying the offense and hoping that the sinner is even more evil than I imagined. I suppose, in a nutshell, this means learning to see both virtue and vice as God sees them. Easier said than done! I would welcome your thoughts.says God hates. I think pornography is evil but I can’t work up much hatred for those who are entrapped by it. And so on. I think my answer must be that just as I must try to cultivate love for the things God loves, I must cultivate revulsion against the things God hates. But because I have difficulty in distinguishing between the sin and the sinner, I must be extremely careful to ensure that no purely human element enters into it. I must not hope that God treats the wicked more harshly than He has treated me; I must not take a perverse delight in contemplating their destruction; I must not deliberately stir up my human hatred by magnifying the offense and hoping that the sinner is even more evil than I imagined. I suppose, in a nutshell, this means learning to see both virtue and vice as God sees them. Easier said than done! I would welcome your thoughts.

  27. Dave, I got messed up in the cutting and pasting.  Let me try again so that this makes sense!//
     
    Dave, this is such an excellent question and I have been sitting here trying to figure out what I think. I think your first point is key: every virtue can’t exist in a vacuum but must be seen in relation to other virtues as well as to the vice that can result when one virtue is emphasized at the expense of every other. For example, kindness is good but not when it results in unkindness to someone who is not the immediate object of my concern. Mercy is good (and feels good) but can result in injustice to the innocent. Gentleness is good but not when it becomes an excuse for cowardice. And, therefore, denouncing vice is good but not when it brings out wicked qualities within ourselves. So I must first make sure that every God-inspired emotion is tempered by justice and prudence. Bestowing charity feels good but can cause harm if it is done without wisdom and a concern for the recipient’s long-term good. Easy forgiveness feels good but not if it encourages the person in further vice. And it is easy to cultivate within myself the emotions which seem to come naturally and to think that is all God expects of me. It is also easy to mistake an easy going disposition for virtue, forgetting, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, that an equable temperament is God’s gift to me, not mine to God. So I think I get all that, although I don’t think about it enough. Now to try to apply this to holy hatred. My church counsels me to hate the sin without hating the sinner. But I have also been told by my Protestant friends that this is not a distinction found in the Bible. Whether or not this is true, I find it a distinction I can made in my mind more easily than in my heart. I spent some time thinking about Tiller the late-term abortionist who claimed to be Christian and who arranged funeral services for some of the babies he aborted. Clearly there are no words that can do justice to my loathing for the evil he did. I believe that the mere fact of holding church funerals shows that he believed the babies were living children of God–which made it impossible for him to claim as a defense a belief that personhood begins at birth. When he was killed at church, I was glad. I felt the same emotion I would have felt if someone had succeeded in killing Hitler or Pol Pot. I had trouble understanding people who censured me for feeling this way, and I had a little trouble understanding why some Christians thought the killer’s act was morally equivalent to Tiller’s. When I retorted that true equivalence would have been stunning him with a blunt instrument and then sucking out his brains with a shop-vac a few thousand times, they warned me that I was engaging in deadly and unholy hatred.//And perhaps I was, and here is where I struggle. What would holy hatred look like in reference to Tiller? How would God want me to feel about him, his death, and the man who killed him? I am using him as my example because there can be no real dispute among Christians about the wickedness of his conduct and the blasphemy of invoking God as he slaughtered God’s innocents. If my feelings were sinful, were they mitigated by my hoping that in his last few seconds he repented and that I don’t want him to be in hell? Or is my hoping that even Tiller has avoided the agony of an eternity without God mere sinful sentimentality? Is my hatred less culpable because my preference would have been for him to repent, close his clinic, and try to open people’s eyes to what happens during a late term abortion? Does the fact that I rejoiced in Dr. Nathanson’s repentance and subsequent crusade rather than wishing him to die in his sins show that my heart was in the right place? // C.S. Lewis whom I deeply admire handles the distinction between hate the sin/not the sinner by reminding us that we are quite capable of applying this distinction to ourselves. We seem able to hate our sins without hating ourselves. I can do this successfully with minor sins but not with things I do that really outrage my own conscience. I hate myself more than someone else because I can find for the other person the mitigations that I dare not find apply to myself. // I realize that instead of giving answers, I have just asked more questions–which shows the extent of my struggle with this issue. I must add to this that I am selective in my moral outrage. God may also hate the sins that especially outrage me (cruelty, abuse of the young and the defenseless of any age, the betrayal of marriage vows) but that does not mean that I equally hate all the sins that the Bible says God hates. I think pornography is evil but I can’t work up much hatred for those who are entrapped by it. And so on. I think my answer must be that just as I must try to cultivate love for the things God loves, I must cultivate revulsion against the things God hates. But because I have difficulty in distinguishing between the sin and the sinner, I must be extremely careful to ensure that no purely human element enters into it. I must not hope that God treats the wicked more harshly than He has treated me; I must not take a perverse delight in contemplating their destruction; I must not deliberately stir up my human hatred by magnifying the offense and hoping that the sinner is even more evil than I imagined. I suppose, in a nutshell, this means learning to see both virtue and vice as God sees them. Easier said than done! I would welcome your thoughts.

Comments are closed.