Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV)
12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.
When we live in community sin and strife are inevitable. Often in our exhortations, therefore, I take the time to warn us from sinning against others and provoking strife. We need to beware lest we be a cause of strife in our relationships.
But today’s Scripture reminds us that we not only need to beware lest we cause strife in our relationships, we also need to beware lest we perpetuate it. It addresses the victim of sin and strife not the perpetrator. What do you do when you are the victim of another’s sin? There you were, living piously, saintly glow radiating about your face, angelic halo dancing above your head, and then, out of the blue, comes a sinner who treads on your toe and picks a fight. Your husband ignores you. Your wife snaps at you. Your friend speaks maliciously to you. Your sibling breaks your toy. How do you respond?
Solomon gives you two options and he paints them in black and white – “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” The first option is hatred. You can respond to the sinner in turn. He stepped on your toe? Then step on his and poke him in the eye for good measure. Hatred stirs up strife. Hatred says, “I’ll see your sin and raise you some.” The second option is love. You can respond to the sinner out of turn. He stepped on your toe? Then overlook it and do good to him; or, if you can’t overlook it, then confront it graciously. If he confesses, you have gained your brother. If he persists, then you can choose to overlook it or to bring along others to help you resolve the matter. Love covers all sins.
Solomon’s words remind us that God does not give us a license to sin when someone else has sinned against us. Even when we are the victim of another’s sin, we are to respond to that sin in love. We are to beware lest we stir up strife by our response to the sin. Hatred stirs up strife. You didn’t introduce it, but you increased it. In other words, Solomon tells you, there is no situation so bad that you cannot make it worse by your sin. Our calling as victims, therefore, is to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, “who, when he was reviled, did not revile in turn; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23). Jesus’ life reminds me that your sin doesn’t justify mine.
But often when we are the victim of another’s sin, we justify our sinful response and we get angry with those who would correct us. Imagine that a thief stole your money and stabbed you in the arm. You are a victim. You go to the doctor. The doctor expresses sympathy for you, stitches up your arm, and gives you instructions about keeping the wound clean. “Keep it clean and you’ll be fine in a couple months.” But you’re so angry about this situation that you ignore the doctor’s orders. You refuse to change the bandages and the wound gets badly infected. Finally, you return to the doctor and he’s dismayed. “Did you keep it clean? Did you do what I said?” he asks. “No,” you sullenly respond. So he rebukes you and tells you that you may lose your arm; you may even lose your life. But you angrily respond, “How dare you blame me? I was the victim! I didn’t stab myself!” What’s the doctor going to say? Is he going patronize you? To apologize for rebuking you? No! Not if he’s a good doctor. He going to tell you that you are a fool and that you’ve only made a bad situation worse.
So what of you? Are you using another’s sin to justify your own? Are you nursing anger or resentment or bitterness in your heart against another? Are you blaming your wife for your outbursts of wrath? Are you blaming your husband for your nagging spirit? Are you blaming your parents for your sullen attitude or sinful rebellion? Are you blaming your employer for your laziness? Or are you taking responsibility for the way that you are responding to the sin of others?
Reminded that the sin of others does not justify our own sin, let us confess that we often stir up strife through hatred rather than cover it through love. And, as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able do to so. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.