Pastoral Letter 26 Jun 2022

My dear readers,

Are You a Stirrer or Stopper of Sin?

Proverbs 10:12: “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

No one admits that they are full of hate. Most of us believe that we are loving and kind to others. However, the Bible says that man’s heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it (cf. Jer 17:9). Self-delusion is very common in this age of self-esteem where the focus is on what I like and what is best for ME! The self-serving society is the bane of our generation leading to the death of an empathetic world. Families are destroyed. Morality and common grace are forgotten and lost. A narcissistic self-absorbing mentality rules the day. Self-promotion usually leads to the destruction of others. Hatred is cleverly masked under a facade of smiles and meaningless flatteries in contrast to the hatred that is loud and obvious. The subtle hatred is more deadly and deceptive and such hatred ought not to be found in God’s children. Yet the Bible warns God’s people of such hatred.

The Bible teaches that hatred need not be a sinful emotion when it is rooted in righteous anger. A well-known example is Psalm 139:20-22: “For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” The reason for such righteous hatred is that these are not just the enemies of believers but God’s as well. They attack God and lead others astray into believing lies and rejecting Him. They do this by attacking the Bible. For example, when God’s enemies teach that the Bible has mistakes or preach a false gospel, they are preventing God from saving sinners from hell.

The hatred of the believer is not personal but righteous. He is expressing an anger that God is expressing! When there is righteous hatred like anger, it means that anger and hatred as emotions are part of man being created in the image of God. God made man in His image including giving to man the emotions of anger and hatred. But when man fell into sin, all his God-given emotions are marred by sin. Man expresses them sinfully. Love, anger and hatred are all tainted by sin. Love becomes lust. Anger and hatred are destructive and hurtful. God has to teach His people to avoid such sinful hatred. Thus, God gave His children the warning in Proverbs 10:12.

The literal translation is: “Hatred stirs up strifes but concerning all sins, love covers.” To stir something means to disturb calmness. The pond water is still and calm until someone throws something in to disturb it. When coffee powder is put into a cup of water and nothing moves, the drinker stirs it to mix it by bringing up the sunken coffee powder to dissolve it. This is exactly what happens when a hateful person stirs the lives of people. All strong and weak relationships are composites of good and bad times. All believers are not perfect. We make mistakes. We have many regrets. We learn to forgive and forget. We know that good times bring joy. Bad times bring pain, but when overcome they strengthen and deepen relationships.

But when the bad times are stirred by hateful people, it brings strifes. Strifes that are forgiven and forgotten and have sunk to the bottom of the deep well of memory are now stirred. But the hateful stirrer’s intent is to destroy friendships and erase brotherly love. This is done through gossips, lies, deceits, flatteries, and all manner of evil. Careless and loose lips are potent weapons in this modern age of the internet. Harsh words to slander and destroy lives are sent into the virtual world by many with their identities hidden. They take no responsibility for what they write because they think that there is no recourse or accountability since no one knows who wrote them. Such callous behaviour and irresponsible thinking are expected of the world since the god of this world is the father of lies.

But when such behaviours are found in the church, committed by people who call themselves God's children, this is an elevated hatefulness of the worst kind! They tarnish the name of Christ. They ruin relationships in God's family. God's children who once lived in peace and tranquillity now live in the battlefield. Love, care and consideration for others are replaced by hate, suspicion and self-centeredness. These have become so common in churches today that it is truly due to the mercies of God that there are still sound churches around for God’s people to worship in and to study God’s Word to grow in the LORD. God ought to have declared “Ichabod” on every church. Yet He is so patient and long-suffering toward us. May we stop stirring up strife and be the children of God that He has made us to be. That is to cover sin with love, His agape love.

The unconditional and sacrificial love of God that was shed abroad in the heart of every believer by the Holy Spirit at the time of our salvation is a powerful motive. This love when it is thrust into the forefront and not left behind is able to hold back the wild, seemingly uncontrollable pride of life. The Christian realizes that he does not need to have the last word. If and when he corrects someone, he ensures that the only motive is love for the person’s spiritual well-being and the betterment of his witness to the glory of God. This powerful love is always in accordance with God’s truth. It is not sentimental love where sins are covered up because of relationships. The word used here is “cover,” not “cover up.” To cover is to forgive the person and to restore the relationship once he has repented. It means to rebuke to help him stop sinning and to return to holiness. Proverbs 27:5-6: “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” To cover up is to turn a blind eye and let his sin remain in his life in the name of “peace.” To see a person in sin including brethren in Christ and to speak with him as if all is well with his soul and to keep silent regarding his sin is deceitful.

“To cover his sin” also means not to tell others about his sin, especially when he has repented. Drawing the line on when to share and when not to share is the hardest thing to do in life. The Apostle Paul named names when he warned Christians about some professing believers. 1 Timothy 1:19-20: “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” And 2 Timothy 2:17-18: “And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” These were evil men who were probably well known in the Christian community and Paul had to warn believers of their pernicious ways and doctrines. Paul did not “cover” or keep silent but he broadcasted through his epistles to warn for the protection of believers and God's glory lest his silence might cause some to be deceived by them and their evil teaching. This example is about doctrinal errors. Proverbs 10:12 is about the person’s personal life.

This understanding helps us to know when to “cover” based upon God’s love. We must be mindful that we all make mistakes in life and in ministry. If we were to begin spreading one another’s mistakes there will be no peace and every life will be destroyed. We need to ask ourselves how to show love to someone who has sinned. He needs help to return to the LORD and to Christian fellowship. If I tell others about it, will it help him and the one I tell draw closer to the LORD? If it does not, it is best to keep silent and not say a word.

We may observe behaviours of people around us and sometimes we see a certain behaviour that is disturbing. Instead of asking the person directly to find out the truth, we foolishly ask others about it. By such a foolish request, we have inadvertently become a gossiper, especially when the person you asked was not even aware of this “disturbing” behaviour! Love for brethren will help us to go to the source and find out and help if possible. When this is practised in our lives, our homes and church will be a loving house of Christ’s abode. It will truly be a home away from our eternal home in heaven. We have a heaven on earth before we arrive home to our home in heaven. Amen.

Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew
Advisory Pastor

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