Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Sinners We Love--Conclusion

Well, friends and fellow bibliophiles, today wraps up our last post on our favorite sinners, and why we love them. I have found it most enlightening to spend the last couple of weeks thinking about this subject; I must confess (and you've probably picked up on the fact) that I was never as fond of villains in my reading. I loved them being bad and getting their comeuppance for it. But after this post (and during a time when I have the great personal pleasure of creating some villains myself, in my own writings) I find my sympathy for them has slightly--very slightly-- expanded.

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.
~Galatians 3:19-26
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.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. *Grins* I love the example you used. ;) We make a very good pair, don't we? <3
    I really enjoyed this series; I think it's one of my favorites. :D And this was a very good post to end with. You did well wrapping up with the question of whether or not we should love sinners. It's interesting how only Christ could fulfill grace and truth perfectly. God saved us from himself. I'll definitely keep this post in mind next time I read about villains. ;)

    P.S. Mikkel had issues...but he was nice. :P

    1. I thought you might like the Viking Quest references. ;) <3 We do make a very good pair, and I wouldn't trade you for a million hardcover first editions. :)

      You said that God saved us from himself, and I'm reminded of the quote we heard this summer-- "God saved us from Himself, by Himself, and for Himself."

      I'm glad you enjoyed this series!

      Love and cuddles,

      P.S. Mikkel was nice...after he got his issues fixed. :P

  2. I love this post! Coming from heavy study of Sociology, I was happy to read an article with a solid Scriptural background.
    I love CG's reasoning about Mikkel. :D And yes, I do think both you sisters make a good pair.
    I always tend to love the "villains" because I expect them to portray a redemptive theme--and when they don't, well, it's rather disappointing. :P I suppose that's one good thing about "Titus: A Comrade of the Cross"--he is a sinner saved by grace, at the end of the book.
    CG mentioned that God saved us from Himself. Indeed He did, and He also saved us from ourselves. ;) Just as a villain would have only increased in his sin, so we, too, would have been left in the depravity of our minds had He not saved us from ourselves.
    Well done, Schuyler. :) <3

    1. Oh thank-you Kal! I'm sure Sociology is pretty difficult stuff to wade through; I'll definitely keep that in prayer. <3
      CG and I share the same opinion on most things, but when we have a difference in our reading we are most unmovable. :D We've had age-old debates on various literary points. But if I were to take a guess, she might win on Mikkel in the end. (Shh! Don't tell her!)
      Titus needs all the good things it can get, in my opinion; I still shudder over that book. What a sad, sad ending. But if it had to be so tragic the redemption theme is definitely something worth adding in. At least it gives the characters hope of heaven, even though it leaves us poor readers with a great empty ache here on earth.
      I love a redeemed villain too :) I think my favorite one (off the top of my head) is Logan MacIntyre from Michael Phillip's Stranger at Stonewycke. Phillips messed up book 2 a little, but book 1 was fantastic. :)

      Love you!

  3. I have greatly enjoyed this series on sinners, Schuyler. And while I have not commented on them all thanks to lack of time, every one of them was inspiring and I was nodding my head happily over them (especially the one about the classics - I had long wished SOMEONE to say something on that point about this new 'thing' modern storytellers have with villeins to make them just about insane to excuse their sin...

    However, in this post, I agree so much of the importance of balancing our perspective and sentiment to sinners in fiction stories in a godly way - law and grace, justice and mercy... and that is so true that in reading fiction it does matter how we deal with them for it can often affect our own daily lives and how we deal with sin in ourselves and the sin of others.

    You and Junior Bibliophile remind me a bit with Frodo and Sam in relation to how they deal with Gollum/Smeagol. You are a bit like Sam I'd venture, seeing the reality of the villeins treachery and corruption and what the sinner rightly deserves, where as perhaps your sister sees it more the way Frodo did... with this mercy and pitying compassion, in the hopes of a change and redemption.

  4. Haha, I guess I am like Sam when I come across a villain. :D Perhaps that's why I unconsciously thought of him when I answered your tag. I should find a LOTR character quiz or something...

    Funny thing was, when I first read LOTR I was much more like Frodo in regards to Sméagol specifically; I was good with giving him a second chance. So I'm not sure what changed, but perhaps it's just a phase of life. :)

    Good comparison! In the end, if Frodo hadn't had Sam, he would have died when he met up with Gollum. And if Sam hadn't had Frodo, they wouldn't have had Sméagol to help them get across the marshes to Cirith Ungol. So that goes to prove that Law and Grace together are very important! :D


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