“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.”
This is a deeply important principle for individuals, institutions, and societies. It is a core issue that confronts every nation and its citizens, and it certainly confronts America today. People “justify” some beliefs and behaviors, and people “condemn” other beliefs and behaviors. They support things they agree with and criticize things they don’t agree with.
This is universal to human behavior. It is simply part of what it means to be human.
The great question facing us is this: What is the reference point for right and wrong? What are the standards for making the judgment to justify one thing and criticize another thing? The warning here is against making the wrong judgment. Do not justify what is wicked and do not condemn what is right.
It is not a trivial recommendation. Proverbs 17.15 should get our attention because it says that justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous is an abomination to God. Justifying what is wrong and condemning what is right reflects a serious rebellion against God’s character and standards.
Godly people recognize and reject what is wicked, and they recognize and support what is right. Godly people first apply this to their own lives, and then to their communities. They defend right things and oppose wrong things.
Implementing this proverb requires the following essential disciplines:
Clarity about standards. We must align with what is true and right. We must know the word of God, and we must have wisdom and insight into how truth is applied to life and work.
Discernment to determine truth from error. There is truth in the world, and there is error. There are principles and practices that are helpful, and there are those that are harmful. There are ideas and ideologies being promoted that are not true and that must be opposed. We must not blindly follow whatever fads and philosophies are most popular. Evaluate everything against the truth. Know the truth and follow it. Recognize error and avoid it. Be particularly careful not to fall prey to attractive lies.
Wisdom to distinguish preference from principle. Some things are not right vs wrong. Not everything is black and white; there are “gray” areas. Some things are simply a difference between preferences or style. Christians should never elevate preferences to the level of principle.
Humility to speak the truth in love. This is the great command of Ephesians 4. Truth is the what of our lives; love is the how and why. Real truth + real love should be our guide at work, at home, and in the community. Not the fake stuff the world promotes, but the real stuff that Jesus gives. Truth becomes harsh & damaging if it is not tempered by love; love becomes soft & damaging if it is not strengthened by truth. The Lord calls us to hold truth + love together.
Courage to stand firm. This is a constant theme in scripture. Paul writes in Ephesians 6: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” This is a call to battle. We are in a fierce conflict against a formidable opponent, and we must be ready mentally and spiritually. We must be strong and stand firm in the face of the enemy. We must be warriors for truth + love. It’s no place for the timid and fearful.
Patience and perseverance to stay the course. Finally, we must be relentless. We addressed this in a recent post. Challenges, problems, and adversity are part of the Christian life. We will experience difficult situations, and we will be tested. In response, we are called to run with perseverance. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6.9) The reason why deeply committed Christians are tenaciously persistent? The reason they are relentless? The reason they never give up? It is because they believe. They trust God. They know who God is, and they have responded to his call on their life. They have accepted the mission that God has assigned to them: live and work in the midst of a fallen and broken world, and do so in a way that reflects the presence and power of God's love and lordship.
Trust God and do the work of standing for what is good and opposing what is not.