When Others Don’t Keep God’s Law

My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (v. 136).

- Psalm 119:129–136

How are we as Christians to respond when we see the people around us failing to keep the law of God? Given the decline of biblical values in Western culture, we must carefully think about how we answer lest we react in a way that does not honor our Lord.

Evangelical Christians are stereotypically portrayed in popular media and on the news as angry men and women who go into tirades when the culture goes against what the Lord has revealed in His moral law. Although these stereotypes do not often line up with reality, it is nonetheless true that our characteristic response to violations of God’s law tends in the direction of anger. Certainly, this is not inappropriate. Scripture calls us to have a righteous anger with respect to unrighteousness. The most holy men in the Bible often get angry when they see sin. Moses, for example, casts down the tablets containing the Ten Commandments when he sees the Israelites worshiping the golden calf (Ex. 32). Moreover, the Apostle Paul tells us that there is such a thing as righteous anger. He writes, “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26).

Yet, if we are not careful, our fury at the violation of God’s commandments might blind us to the mournful spirit we are to have when we see the sin around us. Today’s passage reveals that zeal for the law of the Lord should evidence itself not only in anger but also in “streams of tears” when we see people trapped in their sin and celebrating wickedness (Ps. 119:136). Are we angry merely because the biblically informed traditions of Western culture to which we have become accustomed seem to be dying, or are we upset because God and His glory are not being honored? Do we mourn over the world’s failure to respect the Creator’s good law because we know that those who are breaking it inflict much pain upon themselves in the process, or do we relish in an unrighteous manner the judgment that they are bringing upon themselves? If we are not grieving that our Maker is not being glorified and that people made in His image are callously throwing their lives away, we must return to God’s Word and reorient our priorities.

When Jesus saw His countrymen failing to honor the Lord, He responded not just with anger but with pity (Matt. 23:37–39). Thus, if like the psalmist we believe that God’s testimonies are wonderful (Ps. 119:129), we will likewise mourn when we see people around us following their own ways and not the will of the Lord.

Coram Deo

It is easy to see the decline of biblical virtue around us and lash out merely in anger and dismay. While there is a proper place for righteous anger, we should never let our rage at people’s failure to obey God’s law keep us from mourning for their sin and praying for their repentance. Let us ask the Lord to develop within us a heart that mourns for lost people and for the profaning of His name in this world.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 78:40
Jeremiah 8:18–22
Matthew 9:36
Acts 17:16

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