Our world is full of contradictions. We all see them and do them to some degree. What was once called free love was no more than unrestrained lust. What is called pro-choice is really a horrid restriction on another person’s chance to live. What one person insists is his right to marry the same sex prohibits another person’s right to free enterprise. What some athletes claim is their right to protest becomes a contradictory protest against the thing that gives them the right to protest. A person wants the right to do as he pleases but does not want the consequences that come with what he pleases to do. A man will pick up a gun and shoot people and it’s the gun’s fault so we want to ban it, but thousands of people die each year of drugs and alcohol and it’s never the substance’s fault, in fact, we want to legalize it. Even as a country we want to take and take without giving and expect all things to come out even.
Yet these things that are obviously large contradictions have their likenesses in each of us in smaller contradictions. That is why Jesus said that lust is the same thing as adultery (Matt. 5:28), and John said hate is the same thing as murder (1 John 3:15), and Paul said covetousness is the same thing as idolatry (Eph. 5:5), and James said we pray to a holy God to give us the things that can be consumed on our own sinful lusts (Jas. 4:2). Adam’s sin is in all of us, whether in large quantity or small.
All of these things are opposite of Who God is. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place” (Isa. 57:15). “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3). But God has also said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD” (Isa. 55:8). God desires this, “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Psa. 97:10). Yet we find that outside of Christ we do not love the Lord nor do we hate evil, and even in Christ we continue to struggle with the command to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (John 2:15).
Where did it all begin? Where did we stop loving righteousness? How can the apostle Paul conclude of the whole human race that “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10)? It began in two places that we know well. It began first in the heavens with the anointed cherub Lucifer: “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15). Isaiah seems to indicate that Lucifer was jealous of God’s holiness and said, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:14). But, secondly, sin began in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s bidding and disobeyed God with him. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). Paul said, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
Adam and Eve’s sin has been passed on to all their posterity through birth. Death is the proof. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). An antipathy was born in Adam’s sin, an antipathy displayed in the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed” (Gen. 3:15). All of Adam’s posterity are born in sin and are spiritually the seed of disobedience, or of the serpent. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44). “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil” (1 John 3:10). The only way out of this lineage is to be born again. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:6-7).
The first fruits
We find the first overt fruits of Adam and Eve’s sin in their child, Cain as Moses described it in Genesis 4. God gave Cain and Abel instructions on how to approach Him. Abel was righteous in his approach as the book of Hebrews records, “Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts” (Heb. 11:4). It seems reasonable to conclude that Abel’s offering included blood sacrifice which had been pictured before when God made animal clothing for his parents Adam and Eve. But Moses records that God did not accept Cain’s offering because, though it was from honest and hard work, it was not a blood offering. “And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell . . . . And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (Gen. 4:5, 8).
Now we are closer to the real hate crime. This selfish murder by Cain is truly amazing. There were only four people on the whole earth and Cain killed one of them, a fourth of the population (Adam and Eve had other children but not at this time, Gen. 5:4)! Though sin had entered God’s creation, it had not fallen to the low ebb that it quickly would in Noah’s day. Abel had the whole world to be a hunter and Cain had the whole world to cultivate. Even in a sinful world things could hardly be better. Because of their different professions they would not even get in one another’s way. But God had come to them both and made a request and Cain was thereby embarrassed due to his own disobedience.
The lack of love
The apostle John gives a helpful account of this first murder in 1 John 3:11-13, “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
Cain did not love his brother, he hated him. And why? Because to the sinful soul, righteousness has a way of creating envy, strife, and hate. Righteousness cannot be obtained by the sinful soul itself. It needs shed blood to please God. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). So the sinner is left with himself. He is left with the good work from his creative hand but he is told that this is not acceptable with a righteous God. It is for this exact reason that John tells us that Cain killed Abel. He was envious of Abel, but his fallen countenance showed that he was angry, even with God, that he was not accepted.
Sinners reject the agape love of God for this same reason. They could accept a philos love from God easier. Philos is more of a give-and-take kind of love, a friendship. But agape is an all-giving love. It asks nothing in return. If God had loved us with a philos kind of love, it would bolster our ego because we would have something to add to our own acceptance. But when God loves us with an agape kind of love, it says to us that we have nothing good enough to give in return that would add any merit. God doesn’t need our righteousness in order to love us or save us. Agape says to us that we are sinners through and through and our sacrifices are not acceptable with God. The sinner hates this as Cain hated Abel. The love that faith produces is what overcomes this dilemma. Had Cain had the faith of Abel, he would have come God’s way. “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:7). Sinners can only come to God by the righteousness of Christ, by His shed blood and His death, burial, and resurrection. “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling,” wrote Augustus Toplady. We see in Cain the hatred for God’s standard of righteousness.
Though the Roman cross of crucifixion was a horrible and ugly thing, that in itself does not cause sinners to hate it. In fact, the cross has become an ornament to be worn in a stylish way. To believers it may have a unique meaning, but to the world the cross itself brings no shame or embarrassment. Even in many religious circles, the cross only signifies an example of giving and sacrifice that the sinner can also fulfill. That is basic liberal theology. But if the cross stands for the demands of a holy God which sinners cannot fulfill, it is accused of being hateful. Why? Because it is also telling the sinner that he cannot save himself, that his self-made sacrifice is unacceptable to God. Isn’t it ironic how the sinner who is not righteous is always angry at God for being righteous!
The rise of the “hate crime” in America has created the real possibility that Christianity itself will be accused of being hateful and therefore being a Christian could become a hate crime. In the post-Christian, post-modern era, to tell someone that he/she is wrong, bad, or inferior becomes hateful. You are setting yourself up as superior and saying that the other person is inferior. If you say that homosexuality is wrong you have become hateful because you have said that such a person does not have the ability to know right and wrong. So thinks the post-modern person.
Christianity says that people are sinners. The ten commandments condemn peoples’ actions. Anything religious in government has become a violation of the separation of church and state. Sinners, like Cain, do not want to be told that they are not accepted with God. They accomplish this by removing all reminders of what God has actually said. Any reminder of their sin becomes hate.
The real hate crime
So what is the real hate that is in the world? The world accuses Christians of being hateful. But do Christians hate sinners because they preach about their sin? It makes no sense. If that were the case, the Christian would cease with evangelism and let the sinner go to hell without hope. The mother that insists the child take the medicine even when the child kicks and screams is the mother who loves, not hates. Evangelism is no easy task. The social gospel is much easier because it promotes the sinner’s good works and soothes his conscience. The Christian is fully aware that the sinner doesn’t want to hear about his sin. Neither did he before he was converted. But the Christian knows from experience that repenting of sin and believing in Christ changes everything. It takes away the hate of Cain for the believing brother and grants acceptance with God. The world is seen as a different place.
The real hate crime is the age-old hate for God’s standard of righteousness. When sinners are told that their own righteousness is not acceptable with God, their countenance falls and they turn their anger toward what is condemning them. It has ever been so. Religions of the world are acceptable to the sinner because they teach he can work enough to be accepted by God. Suicide bombers and mass murderers can kill in the name of Islam and yet Islam is an acceptable religion to the world. Why? Because it does not condemn the sinner. It provides a way for his good works to be acceptable with God. Catholicism is acceptable because it forms a partnership with the sinner’s good works and promotes his goodness. Mormonism is acceptable because it provides multiple avenues to work one’s way to the top of the temple and the celestial reward.
But real Christianity is not acceptable. It condemns the sinner. It preaches repentance and the need of a Savior. There is no redemption in a works religion. All righteousness comes from within the sinner himself. But Christianity alone provides a Redeemer, a Substitute Who was punished on behalf of the sinner and in his place. It preaches the need of believing, that is, of applying the righteousness of Jesus Christ in one’s place. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
And so . . .
Things will not get better. Jesus said that in the end times, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12). Paul told Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). America has used up its moral capital and the Christian understanding of sin has waned away. For a time the rule of law was seen as necessary because of man’s sinful nature. Punishment was right because it was consistent with the crime. But that was when human beings could take an honest look at themselves and see their needy condition in light of a holy God. For a time public prayer was acceptable and thought necessary because of the need of God’s intervention in our sinful lives. America was blessed and a blessing to the world because of our belief in the gospel, “giving of our sons to spread the message glorious, and giving of our wealth to speed them on their way.” But times have changed. God has no grandchildren. The Christianity of our forebears is gone.
We are now like Cain. We hate those things that tell us “no.” We hate those people who preach repentance. We hate those things that limit our desires. We hate a religion that tells us we cannot save ourselves, that we must have redemption through Christ’s blood. It is time for the church of Jesus Christ to understand the world in which it lives. We cannot make a compromise with it in an attempt to win it. The compromise with good works is a final loss. We must let the Holy Spirit use the Word of God to bring true conviction of sin and rejoicing in Christ. We must learn again how to witness and preach with the Holy Spirit’s power even in times of opposition. We must learn again how to walk with God. This is the hope for the church, for our children and grandchildren.
Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.
Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in—
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The “early dew” of morning has passed away at noon.
Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember, I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be, in any time of trouble a comforter to me.
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story
Of Jesus and His love.