The godly and the ungodly take very divergent paths. This is fairly elementary to anyone to see. But what we often do not see is that not only are these paths different - they are also disgusting to each other. The word that is used in today's proverb to describe the view that they have of each other is "abominable." The word used here is the Hebrew word "ebah" which means anything that is offensive or what is an abomination to someone else. In Scripture God uses this word to describe those who depart from His Law. Often the word is used for more grievous sins - like idolatry, child sacrifice, and homosexual behavior. What God is saying to us is that there is a radical and serious difference between those who desire to live godly and those who do not. Let's look at little further into this as we seek to understand God's wisdom for us today.
The "unjust" man ("awel" in the Hebrew) is one who deviates from God's way. This kind of behavior and choice is usually set in contrast to words like righteous, upright, and justice. There is a basic injustice in the one who deviates from God's way - and God, being just, will have to bring judgment and punishment to the one who does so. This is why the unjust man is abominable to the righteous. The godly man sees that the unjust man is unjust first and foremost to God Himself - then from that infinite injustice flows all other lesser injustices to others. Since we know that the righteous man is not so because of his own works but due to God's grace, the righteous man knows the cost of this ungodly behavior. That cost is God's Son, crucified on the cross (to the Old Testament saint it was the promise of this in the sacrifices of the Law). To embrace such behavior is to treat God's gift - the sacrifice made to forgive us and remove us from under God's wrath - as worthless and empty. This is an abomination to the righteous man.
The same is true of the ungodly man toward the upright. What the ungodly see is a man who is "upright in the way." This phrase communicates the path of the godly man. What the ungodly sees is a guy who is seeking to walk according to a set of rules that are different than his. He is seeking to be upright - which means to do what is good and what is right. That alone is offensive to the ungodly man. His worldview involves him deciding what is right and good. It even involves him changing his views to match his lifestyle if he desires. To have what he considers an arbitrary set of morals set by God - which is then viewed as ultimate truth is untenable to him. That would mean his own views of right and wrong are in error if they are different than those God has given. His value system cannot tolerate this - because his value system is that of the book of Judges. He does whatever is "right in his own eyes." He is a law unto himself. He does not judge anyone else (unless they judge him or get in the way of him doing what he wants to do) and he expects the same from everyone else (of course always giving way to what he wants if there is any contradiction). Thus the "way" or lifestyle of this guy who is so arrogant as to call his way "right" is an abomination to him. It offends him to the core of his being!
Paul told young Timothy the following in his second letter to him, "Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:11-13) Often we focus only on the last of these three verses - that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. This was only a conclusion for what Paul had already said in verses 11-12. In those verses he spoke of his teaching, conduct, purpose, and faith. Paul was persecuted because he chose to live in "the upright way." That way consisted of two things - both of which are vital to understanding Christianity.
First is the 'way of salvation.' The upright way will never be lived out by effort and striving. Righteousness and upright living is attained by grace, not by our works. God MAKES us upright by an act of His mercy and grace. That comes through the gospel - and only through the gospel. The world finds this incredibly offensive and very narrow minded. But that is the truth. That is how God has addressed sin - and that is, according to Jesus Himself, the only way, truth, and life - the only way to the Father. The second truth of the upright way is that we live and walk it out in a paradox - we work as God works within us. We are called to obedience - and we seek God's power by which we can then walk in that obedience. We are to make choices - strong and bold choices - even as it is God who works in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Living a godly life involves a glorious tension in our lives. We are to do it - and He is to do it within us. We cannot think we do it on our own - and we cannot think that He will do it for us without our cooperation.
The wicked find this whole scenario ridiculous and an abomination. To them it is ridiculous because there is no God - or if there is, their god agrees with them. They have a god of their own making - who looks and acts just like they do. Any other God is unacceptable. The word "wicked" here is telling. The word is "rasa" and it means to be guilty - a wrong-doer, criminal, or a transgressor. It means someone who is wrong! The reason the wicked hate the upright, and find their way abominable is because as they watch them - they know they are wrong. They do not want anyone telling them they are wrong. Their reaction to this is to fume within and rage about how judgmental the Christian is - even if the Christian is not saying anything to them. Their very lifestyle is a rebuke to them. If the Christian speaks out - then they explode - because their guilt rages within them.
There will always be a radical distinction between the righteous and the wicked. There will also be a hostility to the way each other chooses to live. That is the wisdom that God is seeking to impart to us through today's proverb. Therefore the constant effort among Christians to make the gospel inoffensive is silliness. We can be gracious and kind in how we communicate the gospel - but to make it inoffensive to the wicked is impossible. There will always be the offense of the cross of Christ. There will always be the offense of God asserting that He is God and He is absolutely right on moral matters (and all others he touches upon as well). Thus the constant effort to make Christianity inoffensive in its essence is a fool's pursuit. It would be wise for us to abandon it and return to living it simply before the lost, loving them from the heart, and doing all that we can to share the message of the gospel with them. We do so not because we think we are superior. Perish that thought. We do it because we've received grace and desire for them to receive it as well. We want them to be saved - made righteous by grace - and abandon their abominable way to embrace a life lived by the grace of God unto the glory of God.