Hate the sin. Love the sinner. Always a tough balance to reach, and too often people go to one extreme or the other. We either shout out “You’re going to hell!” Or we say, “It’s perfectly all right. Go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. God doesn’t mind. In fact, he approves of what you’re doing.” The Christian response to the homosexual movement in America, for example, tends to fall along these lines.
As Christians, we are not to tolerate sin, calling what is evil good. Yet, our hearts should be that people repent so that they can receive mercy, not that people go to hell.
Honestly, this is a tough passage to deal with as we consider this. God apparently commanded Moses to kill the people who had gone absolutely amok in their sin. The truth we learn here is that willful sin and rebellion against God will be punished. Some of the people were punished right then and there with the sword; others were punished later by the plague that God sent.
Sin must be punished. And so people will go to hell. It’s a message that people need to be aware of. I’m not so much against the message that people are going to hell, as how it’s presented. Too often, it’s presented almost with glee. These Christians almost seem happy that others are going to hell, when instead they should be weeping, and interceding for them.
That’s what Moses did. He was absolutely angered by the sin of the people. When he saw the people, he smashed the stone tablets God had given him, burned down the idol, threw the remains in water, and forced the people to drink from it. When after that, some people persisted in their sin, and had gone absolutely wild in their sin, he followed God’s order to have them killed. And yet, when it was all over, he interceded for the people. He was so concerned for them, that he told God, “please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (verse 32) In other words, he was saying, “If you have to punish their sin, then please punish me too.” I wonder how many of those who shout “You’re going to hell!” pray that same prayer that Moses did.
Are you angered by the sin that you see around you? You should be. If you’re not, there’s something wrong in your heart. Are you concerned for the people around you that are going to hell? Are you interceding for them? Are you weeping for them? You should be doing that too. If you’re not, then there’s something wrong with your heart there too. Because God loved these people so much he sent his Son to die for them. Shouldn’t we be willing to love them as he does?
Lord, you hate sin so much, that you must punish those who commit it. Yet it is your desire to show mercy. Lord please help me to have that same kind of heart. A heart that hates sin. But a heart that desires your mercy in the lives of the sinners around me. Give me your heart. Give me your compassion. And let others see that in me. In Jesus name, amen.