Why Have You Become So Mean?
Basket of Figs, December, 2008
He thought that I had become cruel and mean. His young teen daughter had come to me in tears, saying that he had behaved badly to her, had fondled her.
He tried to make me see that he loved his daughter, that he had not hurt her. Of course I believed that he loved his daughter, as he saw it, but I tried to show him that his action was wrong and contrary to his responsibilities as a father. I didn’t succeed at it. He wept and I wept in the same room that his daughter had wept before. There was too much weeping. Sometimes sorrow is for consequences, not for the sin that brought the consequences. It was a long time ago. Nowadays I would call the police, for a crime had been committed, but we didn’t think like that in those days. We did remove him as youth director; he was angry and left the church. He should have gone to jail.
The trouble was, as I could not see at the time, was that this father equated sentiment with love. They are not the same things. Sentiment is self-defined and self-centered. If you make me feel bad you are bad; if you make me feel good, you are good. I felt bad for his daughter and for him, for I had my sentimentality, also. I am much tougher, now, thank God.
Sentiment decides on the basis of, well, sentiment. Love is defined outside of history and man’s emotion. Feeling is self-centered: “I feel so bad! I am so happy! I am so upset!” So many live their lives wallowing in sentiment, and know so little about love.
This author does not claim to be a champion at love, but he does know that every good thing comes down from the Father of light in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. [James 1:17] The definition of love is outside ourselves and outside of creation. It has something to do with sacrifice for others as God loved the world and gave His Son; it has to do with God’s perfect righteousness because love is the keeping of God’s commandments; it has to do with responding to God, because we love Him because He first loved us; it has to do with fulfilling responsibilities as husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church; it is connected to sobriety as wives are to be sober and love their husbands and children; it is contrary to bitterness, for husbands are to love their wives and not be bitter.
Sentimentalism is emotion disconnected from reason and principle. It can be very destructive. “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Pr 12:10) The wicked may get rather sentimental over whales, puppy dogs, gamboling fawns, and frolicking lambs, but his policies lack the discrimination of reason and put people out of work and render land useless. But he feels good about it, and his sentiment may justify himself in his own eyes. Even though his life may be immoral and wicked, he thinks himself to be a kind and loving person, for he cares very much., you see.
You have seen the bumper sticker: “I hate mean people” or something of the sort. The translation goes something like this: “I don’t like people who don’t surrender to my brand of sentimentality. I am a good person and I cry over endangered mice, but support partial birth abortion. I weep for seals, but support murderers. I support those who abandon their spouses and children and think they need to be given space to find themselves. I cry for abandoned puppies, but am disgusted with the mother who weeps that her daughter gave birth out of wedlock. I love sinners and I don’t like preachers who make them feel bad talking about hell and foolishness.”
Such a person does not know God nor the judgment of God. God is willing to show His wrath [Romans 9:12; Rev. 14:10] and will take vengeance upon the ungodly with flaming fire [[2Thess 1:8] God knows that fire brings pain to the ungodly and will make them feel bad, but His eternal wrath will not be deterred by their weeping and gnashing of teeth. [Rev. 12:10,11] The bitter cup was not even taken from our Lord when He suffered for our sakes. [Matt. 26:39]
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” (1Pe 1:22 AV)