Well, we discussed villains in our first post for this series, and today we're not going to look at them particularly. I think we have them covered for this time around. But we are going to take a few moments on a post dedicated entirely to the concept of loving sinners, and nail down the question whether or not we should with a final conclusion.
Junior B loves sinners right from the beginning. No matter what they do, no matter who they are, she roots for them all the way, in spite of their sin. Take Mikkel, from the Viking Quest series. When I read the first book, my thought was "What an awful slave trader Mikkel is. He's got problems." Junior B thought "I really like Mikkel. He's nice." We had lengthy debates, and still do. (Me: "Sister, he picks up slaves. And Irish slaves at that, which is even worse. He.was.bad." Junior B: "I know. But he's nice." :)
And so we went on for the entire series, with two completely different points of view, and came to two completely different opinions. When Mikkel showed inklings of good character I decided "All right, now I don't mind liking him." But not until then did I even consider it.
So in the end, which one of us was right?
Well, not to be morally ambiguous, but we both were.
If we were taking reading entirely seriously, and not cutting ourselves any slack, you could say that we both had an incomplete perspective on this young Viking. I was Law--inexorable, demanding repentance before favor could be bestowed, and holding up the standards of right and virtue that could not be violated. Junior B was Grace--recognizing potential, seeing hurt that hadn't been dealt with in Mikkel's life, and all in all, hoping that this headstrong young man would come round so that she could really root for him.
And between the two of us, we both got it just about right.
Mikkel needed Law--after all, he was a sinner, and his slave-trading did violate biblical principles. But he also needed Grace, because grace is what gives the sinner hope. Both viewpoints keep each other in check. Law by itself destroys, and Grace by itself destroys, but Law and Grace together equal redemption.
Mart DeHaan, one of the leaders of RBC ministries with Our Daily Bread and Day of Discovery, spoke on this concept of Law and Grace in conjunction with the passage John 1:14.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
When God revealed his own Word to us in the flesh, it was neither a quick Band-Aid fix for all the sins we had ever committed, nor a complete obliteration of all those who had transgressed against His holiness. Jesus Christ is grace and truth, law and forgiveness, Judge and Advocate.
As Christians, we tend to fall into one of two camps, DeHaan said. We are either full of grace, or full of truth. And the same is true of bibliophiles looking at their favorite sinners: we either tend to give them law, or grant them absolution, but it is rare that we strike a perfect balance of both.
This is sounding a little serious, perhaps, for a recreational activity like reading. Do we really need to probe that seriously into why we like sinners? Of course! Our likes and dislikes show the depths of our heart, and it is in our recreational activities like reading that we make application of our theology.
Besides, reading is a precious thing; a weighty thing; and we must be well-equipped to take this privilege to the next level of edification. If we don't know how to handle sinners and villains, then do we know how to handle sin in our own life?
So in the end, should we love sinners, or should we detest them for their evil?
Well, if we as Christians are trying to emulate Christ--who is the Word become flesh--and emulate Him not only in our real-life relationships, but also in our reading material, then we must strive to have a perspective of grace and truth. For some of us that means steeling ourselves to give a little more justice; for others (like myself) it means softening ourselves to give a little more forgiveness.
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
And thus we have a perfect picture of the two perspectives: some of us are guardians of the law, and others like to focus on the faith revealed.
In the end, each of us will always lean a little towards one side or the other, and that's all right. It's not wrong to exult at seeing the justice of God executed on evil, nor is it wrong to hope that evil will see the truth and come to repentance. The two viewpoints combined together make a beautiful picture of the love and holiness of our Lord, and that is our goal as we seek His truth in the books we read: to know and portray Him.
In other words: Grace and Truth. Law and Love.
When we have a balance of these two concepts, then we can love sinners with all our hearts, and love them as a Christian should.