Turn or Burn

Short, pithy statements like the one above are the typical fare of bumper stickers.  They are quickly read and usually make an impression on the reader.  They may or may not convey some useful or appropriate message, but they are generally remembered.  They also tend to evoke strong reactions from those who read them.  For example, some who read the title above will assume that the words to follow will be harsh and judgmental.  Having made this assessment, they will judge the message unworthy of their attention because they are certain it will be judgmental.

We live in a world that wants us to believe that intolerance is the greatest evil on the planet.  In the name of this philosophy, we are being pressured to accept all kinds of variant lifestyles and behaviors and to accord them equal status with the long-established norms of societal conduct.  Arguments in favor of tolerance are made on the premise of fairness or civil rights, as though any kind of intolerance is bigoted or oppressive.  Thus, if one dares to say, for example, that abortion or homosexuality is wrong, it has to be because he hates women and hates homosexuals.

Such arguments purposely ignore two very important facts.  The first is that the Bible is the one and only objective standard for our conduct in life.  Jesus said it will judge us at the end of time (Jn. 12:48).  The fact is that God’s word specifically condemns the shedding of innocent blood (Prov. 6:16-19), a category into which abortion certainly falls, and it specifically condemns homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Rom. 1:24-27, 32).  Society is not at liberty to change this truth, no matter what its motives for doing so might be.

Second, these arguments ignore the real meaning of love.  Society wants us to believe that the only way to show love for another is to be tolerant of his beliefs and actions, no matter how outrageous they may be.  (It is interesting to note, however, that proponents of this philosophy are generally hatefully intolerant of Christian beliefs and practices.)  The truth about love is that it does what is best and right for all concerned in every circumstance of life.  In Rom. 13:10 Paul said that love does no wrong to a neighbor.  In 1 Cor. 13:6 he said that love rejoices with the truth.

When we take these facts into account, we must not fail to speak out in warning to those whose conduct is preparing them for condemnation.  In Rev. 21:8 the scripture says, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolators and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  All those who live in disobedience to God’s word are destined for eternal punishment.  Tolerating their behavior, without warning them of the danger that lies ahead, is not love; it is, in fact, the harshest form of hatred.

In Ezk. 33:11 God said, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.  Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!  Why then will you die, O house of Israel?”  God Himself calls on the wicked to turn back or burn in the lake of fire, where the wicked will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).  God does not wish for any to go there, but His justice and righteousness demand that the wicked be punished.  If we truly love our neighbors we will continue to warn them of the dangers of sinful conduct.  We will continue to warn them to turn or burn.