“Do not look on them with pity …” Does it surprise you that God gave this command in the Bible? It is found in Deuteronomy in the context of Moses instructing the Israelites before entering the land of Canaan. In the passage, Moses gave the people this warning from God: “You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you” (Deut. 7:16). Israel did not obey that command as they should have. The Canaanites, whom the Israelites failed to destroy along with their gods, became a snare to them, just as God had said. They led Israel into intermarriage and idol worship. How slow God’s people were then and how slow God’s people still are today in learning that God knows what He is talking about!
Psalm 106:34–36 addresses Israel’s disobedience:
They did not destroy the peoples as the Lord had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols, Which became a snare to them.
Another passage in which God demands that no pity be shown is also found in Deuteronomy: “But if a man hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him, assaults and kills him, and then flees to one of these cities, the elders of his town shall send for him, bring him back from the city, and hand him over to the avenger of blood to die. Show him no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you” (Deut. 19:11–13).
Later in Deuteronomy 19, God again instructs the Israelites to show no pity: “If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deut. 19:16–21).
Notice that both Deuteronomy 19 passages state that the reason for God’s command, “Show no pity, “ was for the purpose of purging evil from among His people. One passage gives the result of obedience: “so that it may go well with you” and the other: “and never again will such an evil thing be done among you.”
Still another such Scripture passage is Deuteronomy 13:6–9: “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.”
We are living in a society filled with tragic violence on one hand and extreme tolerance and pity on the other. Violence, of course, is very easy for the Christian to see as wrong and to be avoided. In reaction to the harshness and violence in our culture, the Christian has the temptation to have pity or compassion upon what God has spoken against in Scripture. When we pity what God does not want pitied, tolerated, nor accepted, it becomes a snare to us and prevents the individual Christian and the church from purging the evil from among God’s people. While the Scripture passages quoted are from the Old Testament, I believe they contain principles which are very applicable today. In the Old Testament God often used putting to death as a means of purging evil. In the New Testament God commands us to purge evil by not allowing nor tolerating the sin in the church nor in one’s life. God goes on to list a number of sins as barriers to eternal life. We must be careful not to show compassion to, allow, nor tolerate that which God has specifically condemned or spoken against in His Word. If we fail to obey God it will become a snare to the Christian and the church. The non-Christian does not believe in the justice and sovereignty of God. Because of this, humanism takes over. Instead of God’s Word and His holiness and sovereignty, human pity and tolerance become the standard. Pity and tolerance practiced by Christians today, in areas where God has said otherwise in Scripture, have become a snare to religious leaders, lay people, and the church. In the book, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Robert H. Bork gives equality as the cause for the extreme pity or compassion and tolerance present in our culture. Bork makes the following statements: Equality is “the single most powerful and radical ideological force in all of American history and egalitarianism became our “triumphant passion” in this [20th] century. This is having, and will continue to have, very unpleasant consequences (p. 81).
…Democratic man, thinking that others are like himself, identifies with anyone who suffers.1 This compassion born of the passion for equality leads to the power of claiming victim status. We have become what Charles S. Sykes called a nation of victims.2 (p. 81).
Homosexuality, euthanasia, radical feminism, abortion, lack of discipline, permissiveness, divorce, universal salvation, and no-lordship theology are some of the unpleasant consequences which are finding a foothold in the church and in the church community because professing Christians wrongfully “look on with pity” rather than hate what God detests and finds abominable. This results in encouraging people upon a path away from following what God has declared in His Word.
One example of misdirected pity is the view many Christians have taken toward homosexuality. Homosexual lifestyles are being accepted and tolerated by some church people today out of their pity for gays and lesbians as people. Professing Christians are accepting the belief that homosexuality is of genetic origin when the Bible clearly states that a homosexual lifestyle is detestable to God. (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13; Rom.1:26–28, 32). Scripture teaches that God condemns the behavior and holds the person responsible for it. When we pity a sinner and thereby let him continue in his sin, it will become a snare to the church and to the Christian. In 1997, a well known theologian and author, Dr. Lewis Smedes, came to Grand Rapids for a lecture visit at Calvin Seminary. He was interviewed by the Grand Rapids Press Religion Editor, Charles Honey.
In Mr. Honey’s report of the interview, March 15, 1997, he describes Dr. Smedes as “a man of principle and passion.’ In his article Honey writes:
…Smedes also draws heavily on the realities of human life. He saw some harsh realities as president of the Grand Rapids Urban League in the early 1960s. Today, the human condition tears at his heart.
But he also believes most gays cannot change orientation and certainly didn’t choose it.
The oft-advised option that gays should be celibate, he [Smedes] thinks, is “asking more than most people can bear.” For most, if celibacy is impossible, the best option is “a lifelong, committed partnership.
If Dr. Smedes has been quoted accurately, he appears to be putting human experience and compassion before God’s teachings in Scripture. Pity, human concern, and compassion come through so strongly as an attempt to justify Dr. Smedes’ stand, trying to portray him as a man of great compassion and concern but, nonetheless, compromising the stand of the Bible and many churches.
The following quote from The Banner, August 14, 2000, p. 23, written by Don and Carmen Bergman, in which they quote from Dr. Smedes’ book, exemplifies the ramifications of the beliefs and teachings of Dr. Smedes:
We accepted our gay son, asked the school and students to stop the harassment of gay individuals, and told our son that we expect him to remain celibate, but if that was not possible then to choose “the best moral option available” – to live in a committed relationship of love (see Sex for Christians by Lewis Smedes, p. 243).
An article in The Banner, June 3, 2002, entitled: “Our Agenda for Synod 2002 (Article 2 of 2),” by John Suk, p. 4, again states the beliefs and teachings of Dr. Lewis Smedes:
…The committee notes, however, that many gay people and even some Christian Reformed ministers, such as well-known author and retired Fuller Theological Seminary professor, Louis [sic] Smedes, have a different point of view.
Smedes argues that even though God intended for humans to be heterosexual, “God prefers homosexual people to live in committed and faithful monogamous relationships with each other when they cannot change their condition and do not have the gift to be celebate [sic]. (p. 322).
Do you wonder, with me, how Dr. Lewis Smedes knows that God prefers this? Why is it more difficult or impossible to expect a gay or lesbian person to be celibate than it is to expect it from a heterosexual unmarried man or woman? Dr. James Dobson in his book, Bringing Up Boys, p. 129, addresses this thought:
If homosexuals can claim to be genetically predisposed to lust after their own sex, why does that make their circumstances different from unmarried heterosexuals?
Single individuals are certainly programmed by heredity to desire fulfillment with the opposite sex, but they are called to a world of purity. Promiscuity for unmarried heterosexuals is the moral equivalent of promiscuity for homosexuals. Liberal ministers who are revising Church standards to sanction sexual expression by homosexuals must, I would think, extend the same concession to heterosexual singles. But before they do, some Scriptural justification should be found to support the “new morality.” I think none exists.
Incidentally, in The Banner article by John Suk, quoted earlier, he writes: “. . . It [the committee] has replaced most references to homosexuality with the term “same sex attraction,” something that [CRC] Synod 1999 suggested.” The 2002 Synod telephone reporter used “same sex attraction” consistently rather than “homosexuality” in the reports about Synod. Do you see a parallel between this and calling abortion “pro-choice”? Softening the terminology hides the seriousness and truthfulness of the behavior or situation.
Much pity is shown to the gay and lesbian today because of the loud voices they sound in America in demanding and pleading for compassion and acceptance of their lifestyle. The church and individual Christian must be alert to this danger or snare in our present-day society with the homosexual community promoting their lifestyle as a genetic condition; and, therefore, proclaiming that their unbiblical behavior must be allowed and accepted out of pity for one in those circumstances.
In his book, Bringing Up Boys, p. 118, Dr. James Dobson states the following about the genetic origin debate: [T]here is no evidence to indicate that homosexuality is inherited, despite everything you may have heard or read to the contrary. There are no respected geneticists in the world today who claim to have found a so-called “gay gene” or other indicator of genetic transmission. This is not to say that there may not be some kind of biological predisposition or an inherited temperament that makes one vulnerable to environmental influences. But efforts to identify such factors have been inconclusive. Despite this lack of evidence, the gay and lesbian organizations and their friends, the mainstream media, continue to tell the public that the issue is settled that gays are “born that way”.
In an article, “A change of tune on homosexuality,” in the Grand Rapids Press, May 14, 2001, Cal Thomas elaborates on a study done by Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, and his consequent change of mind: In 1973 he [Dr. Robert L. Spitzer] persuaded the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its official diagnostic manual of mental disorders. At the time, Dr. Spitzer was hailed by many as a scientific Moses, leading homosexuals out of their closeted captivity.
Dr. Spitzer spoke again recently to the APA at its meeting in New Orleans. This time he had a different message:
…“Like most psychiatrists,” Spitzer says, “I thought homosexual behavior could only be resisted, and that no one could really change their sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false. Some people can and do change.”
Dr. Dobson commends Dr. Spitzer in Bringing Up Boys, P. 117, with the statement: :‘…We applaud Dr. Spitzer for having courage to examine and then expose the myth of inevitability.”
In writing “The Greatest Spin Ever Sold,” in World magazine May/ June 2002, p. 10, Marvin Olasky declares:
…Look at the 1980’s rebound of the gay movement following the onslaught of AIDS. The disease spread because of reckless sexual behavior that, rationally, would have led to a reappraisal of such behavior and a realization that something about homosexuality is fundamentally wrong. But the news was spun, and gays came out as an oppressed minority deserving sympathy, rather than as people who were oppressing themselves and needed to change their ways.
In his book, The Broken Hearth, William S. Bennett, points out:
But here’s the rub. The stated goal of homosexual activists is not merely tolerance; it is to force society to accept. It is normalization, validation, public legitimation, and finally public endorsement (p. 121).
(to be continued next month)
1. Pierre Manent, An Intellectual History of Liberalism, (Princeton; Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 111.
2. Charles S. Sykes, A Nation Of Victims: The Decay of the American Character (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992).
Mrs. Jan Groenendyk is a retired Christian School teacher. She is the wife of Rev. Marion Groenendyk. They are members of the Bethany United Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan.