In the last few years, I have heard the above quote many times. There is a thinking being accepted by many people, believers and non-believers alike, that Christians ought not to speak about what they are against but rather what they are for.
Now to be fair, I do believe that we (Christians) have done a poor job in talking about sin without the hope of the gospel. We have focused so much on the consequences of the sin that we have forgotten Christ’s call for the sinner. We, especially in the Bible Belt, have frequently made derogatory remarks against the people whose sins we know are wrong. Jesus rarely even did that. I say rarely because He did call people names (“white-washed tombs”, “dogs”, “wicked and evil generation”, etc). In fact, in all the instances where He did make derogatory remarks against a person or a people group, there was almost always arrogance in play. Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery with honor and compassion, yet treated the prideful Pharisees (who were just as lost as the woman caught in adultery) with contempt. Yet, for the most part, Jesus responded with kindness to sinners He preached to; so much so that He was called a “friend of sinners.”
The problem arises when we think that the Bible or Jesus doesn’t speak against things. Let me be clear, although Jesus was a friend of sinners and the Bible gives sinners the great hope of the gospel, both it and He speak often about things that the Godhead are against. Here are a few examples:
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment. (Jude 7)
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 ESV)
People in the post-modern age don’t like hearing negative things (“against”). They rather hear what positive things (“for”). We hear our leaders and politicians turning phrases, trying to put a positive spin on something they are attacking (“I’m not for killing babies, I’m pro-choice”). But they forget the term “apophatic theology”, which is the method of describing God by what He is not. Sometimes we can better understand a position or theology by finding out what it is not. For example, while we know what the fruit of the Spirit are, we know them better because Paul contrasted them with the fruit of the flesh.
I say all of this to encourage us, not to forget the love and compassion of Jesus or the hope of the gospel for sinners, but also to “not shrink from declaring to [people] the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27 ESV). It is not our job to make the gospel more palatable by stripping it of what God is against. It’s our duty and delight to preach the God who is full of fury and love, a furious love that destroys anything that would try to hinder it.