Recently, I was reading a portion of John Bunyan’s classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. During a conversation between two characters, Talkative and Faithful, they began to discuss the marks of a person who is truly a follower of Christ; a person who has the true grace of God in their heart. Through this conversation, I believe Bunyan makes a compelling observation regarding how a true believer should view sin.
The character called Faithful asks a fellow traveler, Talkative, to tell him what he believes are some of the marks of a true believer.
Talkative: Well, it is a very good question, and I shall be willing to answer you. And take my answer in brief, thus: First, where the grace of God is in the heart, it causeth there a great outcry against sin. Secondly-
Faithful: Nay, hold; let us consider of one at once. I think you should rather say, it shows itself by inclining the soul to abhor its sin.
Talkative: Why, what difference is there between crying out against, and abhorring of sin?
Faithful: Oh! a great deal. A man may cry out against sin, of policy; but he cannot abhor it but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the pulpit, who yet can abide it well enough in the heart, house, and conversation.
What is the difference between simply objecting to sin, and hating sin? The distinction that Faithful makes in regards to a believer’s view of sin is an important one that many of us overlook. It is one thing to object to sin and to cry out against it, especially if it negatively affects us. It is another thing to actually despise or hate the sin not only in the world but in ourselves. But, biblically this is what the people of God have always been called to do. Bunyan likely makes this very point from Paul’s command, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Romans 12:9). Commenting on this verse, John Piper observes “He did not say “Choose against evil and choose good.” His words are very strong.”
One of the first steps to overcoming sin is seeing our sin the way that God sees it. Scripture is clear that God, in fact, hates sin, which is why His children are told to “abhor” sin because it aligns with God’s own character. Faithful’s objection in Pilgrim’s Progress is an opportunity to check our own heart and see how we view sin. Are we simply quick to object to sin, like Talkative, especially if it affects us, or do we hate all sin, like Faithful because it is an affront to God?