Ugh, I have not been able to get on to this blog to write. Sometimes life is busy, and there is only so many hours in a day.
I have been greatly enjoying my Pirkei Avot group. There is a lot of very good discussion occurring about Avot 1:7, which says
Nittai of Arbel says: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor; do not associate with a wicked person; and do not despair of [or abandon belief in] retribution.
There are currently 37 comments in the group regarding this subject. The discussion centers around love, confronting others, forgiveness, and repentance. I cannot share them all, but I thought I’d share the last three comments, as well as links to articles that have been shared.
One person said:
This morning, as my husband and I were reading through the current Pirkei Avot lesson (on Avot 1:7), Paul made the observation that we Christians too often desire the day when the wicked will have their retribution from God – especially those who have wounded us personally. It’s an easy trap to fall into, hating the sinner, when it’s the sin itself we should be hating. And loving the sinner so much that we feel sorrow for the ‘wages’ they will receive, if they don’t repent before that time.
Let’s take a lesson from the Word Himself, as HE spoke from His heart (from Deut. 30:15 and 19-20a): “Look! I am presenting you today with, on the one hand, life and good; and on the other, death and evil. I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving Adonai your God, paying attention to what He says and clinging to Him – for that is the purpose of your life!”
And again in Ezekiel 18:30-32, He said: “Therefore, house of Isra’el, I will judge each of you according to his ways,” says Adonai Elohim. “Repent, and turn yourselves away from all your transgressions, so that they will not be a stumbling block that brings guilt upon you. Throw far away from yourselves all your crimes that you committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit; for why should you die, house of Isra’el? I take no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” says Adonai Elohim, “so turn yourselves around [teshuvah] and live!”
We can hear the intense, emotional pleading in Yeshua’s words in both these passages. We know that’s the way He feels because of His tears for Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] on Palm Sabbath (Luke 19:41-44).
May we continually pray that we love the wicked [not what they do] as much as God the Father and Yeshua do.
Another person said:
You’re right that we can fall into the trap of retributive ‘justice’, but loving the sinner and not the sin brings us back to many of the issues – and problems – we’ve been discussing. Sometimes its a fine line, needing the wisdom of the Lord to know what we should do. And, yes, we do have a responsibility to watch our attitudes!
In home group the other day, after I’d referred to the article ‘When separation is protection’, there was one person who kept insisting that God loved toxic people, and thus so should we. And I guess that brings up what is actually meant by ‘love’, and the issue of confrontation (followed by repentance??) that Keren has come back to several times. Rav Sha’ul [Apostle Paul] has some pertinent comments to make in 1 Cor 5 about removing a sinner to prevent affecting the whole congregation. As David Stern puts it in the Complete Jewish Bible in vs 13 “God will judge those who are outside. Just expel the evildoer [including the abusive, drunkards and thieves!] from among yourselves”. Moreover, although God takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner, He did not hesitate to remove them by death when necessary – eg Judah’s sons Er and Onan in Gen 38. That I may know and have the father’s heart towards people is certainly one of my prayers.
Another person responded:
I appreciate your comments. This is an issue that I have wrestled with for years. What is love and forgiveness? Most Christians say that God loves the world and we ought to love the sinner–even toxic people. It is true that Yeshua loved the world so much that even while we were His enemies, He died for it. However, it’s also true that those who do not repent will never receive His forgiveness, mercy, or a relationship with Him. It all depends on REPENTANCE.
There is a big difference, also, in loving a PERSON and embracing his beliefs and lifestyle. I see many who “love” and “forgive” unrepentant toxic people and defend their wrong behavior because “we must not judge them.” Is this truly love? For example, when raising our kids, do we truly love them if we let them do whatever they want? I’d say no. The greater love is when we set boundaries and confront wrong behavior, knowing the wrong behavior will result in destructive lifestyles if it is not challenged.
I love the toxic people in my own life deeply and grieve over the broken relationships, but I must separate from their abuse. They refuse to acknowledge/repent of their own wrongdoing which makes them unable to see my love, and because they cannot see my love, they cannot accept my forgiveness, and because they cannot see my love or accept my forgiveness, they cannot forgive me for my faults (both real and imagined) even though I have asked them to forgive me for anyway that I have failed or hurt them. I was told that one person said that all my efforts to reconcile are a “mere drop in a teacup” and there is nothing I can ever to gain their forgiveness. What more can I do? I believe there is no sin that these people have committed against me that cannot be forgiven–because have not I, also, said and done hurtful things in my life? Yet, without repentance/forgiveness there is no possibility of relationship.
In the Bible, Yeshua looked at the crowd of people and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36). He also grieved over Jerusalem, saying in Luke 13:34-35: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and YOU WERE NOT WILLING. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” However, millions of people will not be with Him in the world to come because they rejected his offer of relationship. In fact, Romans 1:18 says “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…” and following verses say that because they will not accept the truth, God “gives them over” to their own desires and lifestyle. Verse 32 says “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 2:5 (and following verses) says “But because of your stubbornness and your UNREPENTANT heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”
In our own relationships with people, we often read Luke 17:3-4 that we ought to forgive someone who sins against us, even if they sin against us seven times a day. However, we have overlooked the phrase, “IF THEY REPENT”: ” “If your brother or sister sins against you, REBUKE THEM; and IF THEY REPENT, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I REPENT,’ you must forgive them.”
There are also verses, such as 2 Timothy 3, that says we ought to separate from toxic people: “1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SUCH PEOPLE.
Matt 18:15-17 says: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault [i.e., confront them], just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. [i.e., separate, having nothing to do with them]
And, of course, there are many such verses in the Old Testament about this as well. Search the word “repent” and see where it takes you. As much as God loves us, look at the following verses: Prov. 6:16-19 describes what God hates, and, as Keren quoted above: “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to Adonai.” Ps. 11:5 says, “The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” Prov. 3:32 says, “For the LORD detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence.
While we are to love people, I do not think this means we are to defend or forgive those who do wrong who are UNREPENTANT, or to accept what they say or do.
If you’d like to research this further, here are links to interesting articles about this topic that have been shared during this discussion: