To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48, roughly paraphrased)
Christians have been given much – more mercy, grace, and forgiveness than any of us have deserved. However, I think that the withholding of that same mercy, grace and forgiveness from others is where we sometimes get our less-than-stellar reputations among non-Christians.
It’s a fine line to walk, that whole “love the sinner/hate the sin” thing, but it’s a line that we must learn, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, to walk if we’re ever really going to effectively serve Christ in our world.
Scripture: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” – Titus 3:1-3
Observation: Paul is writing to Titus, instructing him to teach his people that, while their (and our) first loyalty is to God, we are also to obey and respect earthly leaders and their position of authority.
I think Paul is also saying that we have a responsibility to show mercy and grace to society in general.
“…to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” – Titus 3:2
He’s saying that, before Christ saved us from our sin, we weren’t any different than those who don’t know Christ and are living for their own desires and pleasures. Unfortunately, sometimes we’re not any different on the outside once we have been saved.
Application: Christians have a reputation for being “holier-than-thou” and for trying to shove our religion down society’s throats. It’s a fine line to walk because, if we truly believe what we say we believe – that faith in Christ is the only way to eternity in a very real Heaven versus eternal punishment in a very real Hell and that there is an absolute truth and a universal wrong and right – then we have to live that out.
Living that out is going to be visible and, at times, controversial. It’s going to mean that we want to do what we can to help others avoid an eternity in Hell. It’s going to mean that we can’t quietly indulge in society’s mindset of “your truth is good for you and my truth is good for me.” It’s going to mean that people can and should see a difference in our lives.
However, showing God’s grace and mercy to everyone and realizing that “at one time we too were foolish…” (v. 3) should not look “holier-than-thou” and should not involve shoving religion down someone’s unwilling throat.
It’s hard sometimes, as someone who has grown up in church, to relate to people who are living in worldly sins that I’ve never experienced. It’s hard to know what “hating the sin, but loving the sinner” should look like without feeling like I’m condoning or ignoring the sin.
I do know, though, that constantly bashing someone over the head with their sin is not an effective way to win them to Christ. It is, however, a pretty effective means of ensuring that they are completely turned off on Christ, Christians, and everything they stand for. Not exactly what we’re going for, I hope.
I think that letting people see, from me, the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness that Christ has shown me is a far more effective way of introducing them to my Savior.
While I haven’t known a wide variety of worldly sin, I have known obesity for at least 15 or 16 years. Having come out of that, many people are looking to me for advice and guidance to get themselves out of an obese lifestyle.
How effective am I going to be at helping someone else recover from obesity if I’m looking down on them and negatively judging them because they’re fat – if I act like I’m too good to associate with them because they’re obese and I’m not? How hypocritical is that?
How effective am I going to be at helping someone overcome obesity if all I do is condemn them for their weight, their eating habits or their activity level? How effective am I going to be if I don’t share the source of my success, but, rather, spend all my time with them telling them what they’re going wrong and refusing to have anything to do with them until they change, get their act together, and are more like me? How conceited is that?
And yet, that’s what we Christians do so much of the time. People need Jesus and we’re refusing to share Him. It’s like that Casting Crowns song, What the World Needs, that says, “God’s got to change her heart before He changes her shirt.”
We’ve got to love people where they are and accept them, sins and all, just like Christ accepted us – just like He continues accepting us every day because, goodness knows, I’ve still got plenty of sin in my own life. If we don’t, we’re pushing people away from Christ, rather than drawing them to Him.
The Bible says it would be better to have a millstone tied around our necks that to cause another person to stumble in their faith. We’ve to to start clearing the path to faith in Christ, rather than tossing up roadblocks.
Prayer: Father God, Forgive me for the times I have caused someone to stumble in their faith. Forgive me for the times I have set up roadblocks in stead of clearing the path. Forgive me for the times I have withheld grace, mercy, and forgiveness from someone else in the face of all the grace, mercy and forgiveness You have shown me.
Teach me what loving the sinner while not condoning the sin looks like. Help me to live an authentic life, showing the love of Christ to everyone with whom I come into contact.
Help me to respect those in positions of leadership and authority over me. Help me to be obedient, ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, to show humility to all men, and to remember what I am nothing without Your saving grace.
Help me to lay myself down and realize that I am nothing apart from You and without Your grace and mercy. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You and that points those around me to faith in Christian. I ask this in Jesus’s name, amen.
Have you been spending time alone with Christ lately? What has He been showing you?
P.S. I’m posting at Simple Homeschool today about using presentations to assess student progress. I hope you’ll stop by!