None of us would ever say that we loved evil more than good, or more than God’s way, and we’d be horrified if it turned out otherwise – but since the beginning, from Satan’s temptation to Eve through the time of the Biblical Judges when every person did what was right in their own eyes, the question of right and wrong, of good and evil, of righteousness and sin, has plagues humanity. Hear the Psalmist’s description of two kinds of people: There are the “you’s,” described in such flattering language as, “Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.” And then there is the “I,” described like this: “I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.”
A pretty sharp contrast, and I doubt that any of us would like to find ourselves on the bad side of it. The trouble is – and Scripture recounts it to us, secular history corroborates it, even the history of the Church tells us the same story: in and of themselves, people cannot help but choose their own way: their ego-driven, proud, falsely motivated way. Not one person – not even us, here today. But, the witness of Scripture is also clear, in Christ we may receive power and grace to choose another way. God’s way. So the question before us, today, is this: do we, like the “you’s” in the psalm, love evil more than good? or do we, like the “I” in the psalm, love God’s way more than evil?
We make all kinds of half-measures to preserve us from really facing this question. We say the right things, and then believe them to be true simply for that reason. We forget the greatness of God because we are blinded by the goodness of humanity. We settle for “good enough” instead of pressing on for the fullness of the righteousness of God in our lives. That’s a half-measure. “I’m a good person,” is not the song of a person who is humble before God and seeking the fullness of Christ in their lives, but the cry of the desperately proud and self-justifying. In so many ways we forget the absolutes of God, in whom is truth; in whom is fullness of being; in whom is our beginning and our end.
We make tolerance a virtue, but not tolerance as it was understood a century ago. Tolerance used to mean that though we may disagree, I will defend to the death your right to have your opinion. I can stand you, I can accord you respect and dignity, even though we may disagree – and in disagreement, I may really think you’re incredibly wrong. These days, tolerance means that we accord the same truth value to all statements that any person may make on any given subject. If you disagree and think a person is wrong, then we no longer believe that you respect and dignify the person. Yet a person and their beliefs are separate things. We are called to love sinners, and yet to hate their sin. But we mollify the meaning of tolerance, and convince ourselves that it means what it does not, because in so doing we enable ourselves to tolerate ourselves – to tolerate our own shortcomings (which no longer need to be adjusted), to tolerate our own sin (which no longer needs to be forgiven, let alone transformed by God’s grace), to tolerate our own rebellion against God.
But we have been saved by Jesus so that we can choose God’s way, instead of our own way. Do you love God’s way more than evil? Choose God’s way above your own!
And so the foundation for life, the true foundation, is Jesus Christ and His perfect way for His Creation. He will not have us condemn one another (let the one who is without sin cast the first stone), but neither will He have us condone sin: either in ourselves, or in others (go, and sin no more). We are to love sinners and hate sin because the sinless One loves sinners and hates sin so much that He gave His life for the sake of undoing sin and saving sinners like you and me. Giving ground to, excusing, and tolerating sinful rebellion against God – making space for it – is a half-measure.
And so let us be done with half-measures! May we examine our hearts and be done with false hopes based upon the transitory things of this world! May we not be misled by false advertising, and all that it promises – life finds its fulfilment in Jesus, and no other! May we cast aside the unworthy distractions that the world flaunts before us to draw our attention to other things, choosing Jesus above all else – who has given us far more than any other! May God grant us the grace of true repentance to turn away from, all sin that clings to us so graspingly! May God grant us the grace to submit our wills to His, and so to participate in the long process of sanctification, whereby He moves to make us holy. Amen.