Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 21, 2002
Condemn the sin, but love the sinner
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
As Western society's cultural ethos drifts farther and farther from its Christian roots, it becomes progressively more difficult for those of us who still affirm orthodox Christian teachings and principles to get our convictions taken seriously.
The issue of non-marital sex provides a prima facie example of the problem. There is zero support in Scripture or in Christian Tradition, for any notion that genital sexual activity outside of lawful marriage between a man and a woman can ever be morally adequate or acceptable.
However, in this post-"sexual revolution" era, such an assertion seems bizarre and unthinkable to most people, certainly to secular pagans but also to a dismaying proportion of those who call themselves Christian.
Studies cited by evangelical researcher Gene Edward Veith Jr. found that 56 per cent of single "fundamentalist" Christians indulge in sex outside marriage - nearly the same percentage as single non-Christians; that 66 per cent of single Roman Catholics are sexually active; and that 83 per cent of Roman Catholics accept premarital sex.
It is of course difficult. Virtually everyone has friends and acquaintances who are in, or have been in, non-marital sexual relationships, or who engage in casual sexual liaisons. Indeed few members of the baby boom or younger post-pubescent generations have not done some of these things themselves.
There is also the modern liberal aversion to making moral judgments about anything. However, the Christian's exemplar of how to deal with this dilemma is Jesus, who did not mince words when reproving sexual moral failure (for example, John 4:17) or fudge what the standard of sexual conduct was to be ("go, and sin no more" John 8:11). However, he was able to condemn the sin while lovingly affirming the repentant sinner.
The desire to be "nice" at all costs or to succumb to guilty sentimentality on this issue does not reflect the standard Christ set. True compassion and love for others demands acknowledgment of the nature of their sinfulness, but also an unwillingness to condemn the person.
Abortion is an even more troublesome topic than illicit sex. With over 100,000 abortions performed in Canada annually, most of us know someone socially or may even have a relative who has aborted a pregnancy. Doctors who perform abortions remain respected members of secular society.
Polls indicate that some 80 per cent of Canadians support "a woman's right to choose," and an even higher percentage support abortion under at least some circumstances. Yet, Christian principles oblige us to regard abortion as slaughter of innocents.
So how can Christians today deal with the unprecedented phenomenon of living in a society in which millions of people have killed their unborn children?
Again, we can only apply Christ's example: love the sinner while hating the sin. The good news of the Christian Gospel is that no matter what sin you have committed, if you are sincerely repentant there is forgiveness.
The problem today is that dominant secular humanism has convinced many that sin does not exist, so there is nothing to repent of. As Christians, we must love sinners, repentant or not, but it is not loving to affirm, implicitly or explicitly, that everything is OK even if the sinner does not repent.
Western Christians in the 21st century must discard and repudiate the liberal humanist view that "tolerance" is the quintessential virtue. Indiscriminate tolerance is not a legitimate option for true Christians. Jesus loves sinners unconditionally, but he is emphatically not tolerant of sin.
Sin and evil become inexplicable to a culture that acknowledges no objective moral compass. When people do bad things or commit horrific crimes, postmodern conventional wisdom describes these acts as "senseless," or "mindless," or "random," unwilling to deal with the dark motives that underlie them.
As Carl Jung observed: "We have no imagination for evil, but evil has us in its grip."
In the face of this moral holocaust, the most important thing Christians can do is to courageously and assertively affirm that "Yes, I really do believe that" when Christian principles are attacked or challenged.
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