By P. Andrew Sandlin
Published February 1, 1994
“Do I not hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee?” (Psalm 139:21).
This statement by David, as well as scores of others in Scripture, including several significant ones made by Paul, no doubt sounds strange – perhaps even offensive to the ears of many modern believers. The apostle in one instance says: “If any man preach another gospel than ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). The idea of a Christian’s hating not only wickedness but wicked people is largely incompatible with the religious sentimentalism pervasive in modern Western Christianity epitomized in the popular but spurious expression, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”
It is plausible to assume that this sentimentalism can to a certain degree be attributed to the influence of theological liberalism.1 A sentimental attitude toward God’s enemies does not square with Biblical precedent. If we imitate the example of God and His people as revealed in Scripture, our disposition toward the wicked must be much more austere.
This attitude does not refer to mankind in general; it refers to the overtly wicked and vicious individuals whose actions destroy lives and damn souls – that is those who are actively seeking to subvert the kingdom of God.
Our Attitude Toward The Wicked
For example, the martyred saints in heaven petition God with regard to their murderers, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:10). I suspect that many Christians today would have responded, “Lord, don’t harm these your wicked enemies; give them time to be saved. Don’t be cruel to them.” The apostle John observed that “much people in heaven” rejoiced at the utter destruction of the vile Babylon (Rev 19:1-3). The utter destruction of an evil society, such as Nazi Germany, or the death of a cruel dictator such as Mao or Saddam Hussein, ought to be an occasion of praise and gladness, as it was for the saints as in recorded in Revelation 19.
Defective view of God. In many cases, one supposes, Christians’ queasiness over the proposal of God’s judgment of the wicked flows from their defective view of God Himself. Because God is a perfectly balanced Being, His attributes are equally ultimate. He is equally a God of kindness and justice, mercy and judgment, love and hate.2 It is not our discretion to conform God to our distorted image; we must accept Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word.
Prayer for Judgment on the Wicked
While Scripture affords clear examples of dedicated believers who remonstrated with God to delay or withdraw impending judgment on His own people (e.g. Abraham for Lot, Moses for Israel), it is equally reticent about any such appeal on behalf of the heathen and the wicked on the part of God’s people. All to the contrary, the obvious and frequent examples display God’s children as actually invoking God’s wrath on the heathen. The imprecatory Psalms3 contain petitions by David and others for God to harm and destroy wicked individuals. These are called imprecatory Psalms because an imprecation is a calling down of God’s curse. Paul’s imprecations recorded in Galatians 1:7-9 and implied in 5:12 parallel the psalmist’s imprecations.
As Revelation 19:2 makes clear, those who rejoice at the demise of God’s enemies are impelled by a desire to uphold the righteous judgment of God. That is, they’re more concerned with God’s justice and righteousness than they are with the welfare of wicked individuals. They are careful not to reverse the order of the first and the second great commandments: loving God with all of one’s heart and then loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
What are the sentimentalists really saying?
What sentimentalists are really saying when they balk at praying for God’s judgment upon evil individuals is that they are uneasy about a cause and effect relationship between sin and judgment. If we hate the evil, vicious results of pornographers, abortionists and cultists, yet we simultaneously shrink from requesting God’s judgment on the perpetrators, we are really saying that we dislike or disfavor a world in which judgment follows sin.
When sentimentalists concede that they yearn for a world in which judgment is the consequence to be delayed until the final judgment, what they are really saying then is that they are willing to sustain all of the evil results of the vile individuals. This would necessarily accompany a desire for God to delay His judgment because of the sentimentalists’ queasiness over God’s judging wicked people. In other words, they prefer homosexuality, dismembered infants, and child molestation to God’s judge homosexuals, abortionists, and child molesters.
The pattern of the Biblical saints is different: the prayers of God’s saints for His judgment on the wicked implore Him to act immediately, without delay (Psalms 79:5,6; Rev. 6:10). They despise the horrid results of evil workers and know that those results will be cut off as soon as the evil workers themselves are cut off.
Judgment as grace. They are aware, as we should be, that judgment is a form of grace, just as grace is a form of judgment. God executed His judgment upon Christ in order that He may extend His grace to us. (2 Cor. 5:21). Similarly, God extends His grace to His people (and mankind in general) when He destroys the wicked, because in destroying the wicked, He is averting their evil works that so plague God’s children and mankind in general.
Isaiah knew the truth of which sentimental Christians are ignorant: “Let favor be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness” (26:10); yet, “when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (26:9). God’s judgment – not His favor – leads the world to righteousness. We should petition God’s judgment on the wicked because judgment is a form of grace.
“Up” With Imprecations4
It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that the terrible moral and spiritual plight the Western world is presently suffering is due partially to the sentimental attitude of the Christian Church. They are like citizens in a democracy who castigate the politicians but who neglect to vote. They hate perversion, abortion, and cults, but they are too queasy and sentimental to pray for God to judge perverts, abortionists, and cultists. They suffer from a sort of irrationality that accompanies those who refuse to affirm and perform the whole counsel of God.
Worse, no doubt some of them are reluctant to practice imprecatory praying because they believe that increased evil is a precursor to the Lord’s return. In other words, they enjoy the spread of evil because it indicates that the Lord is coming soon – “Yes, things are pretty bad; but praise God for the increased murder of infants, spread of AIDS, and molestation of children, because that means Jesus’ coming is right around the corner.”
If that attitude seems perverse to you, that’s because it is!
When we hate God’s enemies (not our own [Mt. 5:44]), we demonstrate our love for God (Psalms 139:19-22). When we cry out to God to judge speedily the wicked, we are expressing our hatred for the harmfulness of evil deeds and our desire that they be frustrated (Rev. 6:9-11).
We must be certain that it is God’s enemies, not our own whom we hate (Ps. 139:21,22); and we must be sure our own hearts are clean in the sight of God (vv. 23,24).
If we love God and hate evil, we should hate His enemies and pray that they, and consequently their evil works, be judged.
1 See Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton,IL: Victor Books, 1986), 295,296.
2 Peter Ruckman, “Sovereign Grace Compared With Biblical Salvation,” Lockland Baptist Witness, April 1958, 2.
3 See Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139.
4 Imprecations are defined as: prayerfully uttered curses on God’s enemies. Fortunately, imprecatory prayer is experiencing a revival among Bible-believers; see Bill Hall, “Imprecatory Prayer,” Faith For The Family, March, 1981, 10-14; Editorial [Bob Jones], idem., p.2; Gary North, When Justice Is Aborted, 90-94.
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