So you hate sin? Murders of innocent victims make your blood boil. Evil kidnapping of children revolts you. Domestic terrorism repulses you. Your boss’s cheating makes you indignant. Your neighbor’s affair offends you. You take to heart Paul’s succinct command to the believers in Rome: “Abhor what is evil” (Rom. 12:9b) and his similar admonition to the Ephesians: “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (5:11).
But as morally outraged as we might become when those around us sin, I fear we much too often respond like King David to our own sin. You will remember that the prophet Nathan approached David with a story. It seems that a traveler paid a visit on a rich man. The rich man wished to entertain him but was unwilling to take even one lamb from his “many flocks and herds” (II Sam. 12:2b) to feed him. Instead, he stole a ewe from his poor neighbor, the only sheep he had, one that had grown up “together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him” (v. 3b).
David was understandably incensed, and he passed swift, decisive judgment on the rich man: “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion” (vv. 5b, 6). But then Nathan thrust in the dagger. “You are the man!” he told David (v. 7b). He continues, in essence, “You stole the wife of your honorable servant, Uriah; then you murdered him in cold blood by the hand of the Ammonites.”
David, who had so quickly and justly condemned the sin of the fictional man in Nathan’s story had somehow managed to salve his conscience regarding his own much more grievous sins of adultery and murder. We all have a tendency to be fastidious when it comes to removing the mote from our brother’s eye but remarkably complacent when it comes to the beam in our own eye.
Our morality and our hatred of sin can never be accurately measured by our reaction to sin in the lives of others. The test of our righteousness is how we respond to sin in our own lives. We know that we truly hate sin if, when it is exposed in our lives, we quickly repent of it. Godly repentance goes far beyond feelings of remorse and saying we’re sorry. Paul explains what true repentance looks like. “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter” (II Cor. 7:11). Hatred of sin makes us zealous for righteousness in our lives and anxious to vindicate the accuracy of the judgment that we have sinned and to rectify the situation if possible. It produces indignation against our own behavior and a renewed reverence for both the holiness and glory of God. It results in a longing for restored fellowship with God, a zeal for doing what is right, and an earnestness to pay whatever debt the sin incurred.
We know that we hate sin as we ought when we actively resist the devil and zealously flee temptation. We know that we hate sin when we are grieved by its presence in our lives, when we are burdened that we have dishonored our Savior, when we are ashamed that we have, in effect, made the indwelling Holy Spirit become an involuntary participant in our sin. We know that we hate sin when we are truly thankful for the Nathans in our life who kindly yet honestly show us our sin.
It is easy to become indignant with the sin outside ourselves, and though the thresholds differ, virtually everyone responds with indignation to some manifestation of sin in others. It is quite another thing to be indignant against ourselves, to desire to avoid sin, to want it exposed when we don’t recognize it ourselves, to desire our lives to be a blessing and not a hindrance to others, and to pursue righteousness in order that our Savior and God might be honored. May we hate our own sin.
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