When I was younger I thought I could fix things. I thought there was a way that I could get people to stop doing wrong, a way that I could stop all the pain. If only us Christians could figure it out! If only we could do something about all the evil in the world. These thoughts bled into other areas of life, because thinking that I’m responsible for stopping people from sinning also meant that I was responsible for the good and bad experiences in my own life. As a result, I had a lot of stress and issues with control. What I’m going to talk about today is the verse that I came across that stopped this way of thinking, and helped me to let go. It’s my favorite verse in the Bible, and summarizes the Christian response to both sin and righteousness.
“Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” – Revelation 22:11
This is my favorite verse. It’s simple and is part of the prophecy about both the future of the world and its current state. God mostly speaks to me through scripture, and this made it very clear that there are things going on that I needed to let go of. This made it clear that I needed to both let people be righteous and let people sin, because in the end we all have our own choices to make. Is there more to this message? Surely it might seem like there’s a lot more going on here. Well, the Bible doesn’t just say one thing once, it says the same thing in many places and different ways in order to finally get it in our head. So let’s look at where this topic comes up in other places, so that it’s all laid out.
We know that Gabriel told Daniel about what’s in Revelation and offers more on the same topic. Let’s look at Revelation again, including one more verse so that the parallel is clear:
Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” – Revelation 22:10-11
Then, Gabriel has this to say in Daniel:
He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” – Daniel 12:9-10
This is an acknowledgement that sin will continue. There’s nothing we can do about that. Our purpose, which is spreading the message, doesn’t include stopping people from sinning. The wicked will continue to be wicked. There will be people who don’t listen to God, and there will be people who do. We can’t control who does what.
Ezekiel offers another parallel to Gabriel and Revelation. However, his perspective, like Revelation, comes in the form of a command about what we should do in response to this topic:
“But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.” – Ezekiel 3:27
Let the wicked be wicked. Let the good be good. Let people listen, and let people ignore. It’s a simple and clear message. Likewise, Jesus said:
“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” – Matthew 11:15
Let people hear the message and make a choice. But know that they will decide to reject God, or follow him. It’s not up to you, and you don’t know when they’ll make that choice in life.
The whole point of me discovering this verse, during a point in my life when I wanted to control everything, was for God to start showing me how to let go. But it’s not just about letting go of what other people do, but letting go of what happens to myself. I said at the beginning of this post that I felt like I was responsible for the good and bad that happened to myself, but this verse in Revelation opened me up to seeing that that’s not the case. Gabriel and Ezekiel have elaborations on the topic of responding to other people, but Timothy talks about the response to yourself.
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” – 2 Timothy 3:12-14
Revelation says to let the wicked be wicked, and the righteous be righteous. Timothy applies this to ourselves and says that wicked things will happen to us, and to continue to be righteous. Because persecution will happen to us, letting sinners continue to sin means that we also need to let persecution happen. We can’t stop it or control it, God says it will happen. But also continue to be holy. Continue to be righteous. Peter quotes Leviticus 11:44 when he says in regards to continuing to do what is right:
Because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16
Let the righteous be righteous, and let the wicked be wicked. Do what is good because God is good. Let persecution happen because it is a sign of us being a Christian. We all make choices, some listen, some don’t. Let go of trying to control the world, let go of trying to control the good and the bad in your life, because we’re just not meant to change it. Only Jesus could change the world. And only Jesus can change you.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19