Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner

The stares. The look of disbelief and disgust blatantly showing on your faces. The whispers. The judgement. The exile. You've done it all. You've looked at a person, simply looked at them, maybe even gotten to know them, and thought "wow, they really have some issues." Or maybe someone in your life messed up. Someone you thought was the perfect image of Christ, finally showed you that they, too, sin. What did you do after that? You pushed them away. Far out of your overly righteous sight.

I think the problem with some of us Christians today is that we're too focused on fleeting away from anyone who sins differently from us. If they do something other than the "quiet" sins we're used to such as lying and gossiping, we distance ourselves. What some of us don't understand is that our role as followers of Christ isn't to separate ourselves from those who are lost, but to save the lost. If you're afraid these so called "lost" people are going to rub off on you or influence your salvation if you get too close, then it's YOU, my friend, that needs to work on their relationship with God.

Question: Are you a friend of sinners? Do you spend time with people who don't know Christ? Do you reach out to those whose lifestyles may be offensive to you? Those whose reputation among the "saved" like us, is an embarrassment and even a scandal? Do you love sinners, care for sinners, reach out to sinners?

If you answered no to any of those questions, you're doing it wrong.

It isn't our job to judge what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable, just and unjust. This is going to burst a few people's bubbles, but we weren't put on this earth to condemn people to hell who aren't like us. We need to stop walking around thinking we're too holy to be seen or affiliated with those whose lives are a constant shipwreck. We need to realize that we, too, are in desperate need of God's mercy.

If you know the bible at all, you know that Jesus was a friend to the sinners. He reached out to three groups of people in particular: 1) the unlikely, 2) the undesirable, and 3) the spiritually unhealthy. Look at a few stories in the bible, get to know the characters, and ask yourself two questions: With whom do I most identify? Am I loving and serving sinners like Jesus? To reach the lost, you have to actually BE with the lost. Bigotry of whatever sort is always sad, ugly, and pathetic. It is further evidence of our sinful and depraved hearts that desperately need the grace of God in our own lives. Don't ever look at yourself and believe that you're too righteous to ever fall short. It's so easy. Back sliding isn't always a slow process, either. A little here and a little there, and the next thing you know, you're so far from God you look around and wonder how you got there. You are always being tested. God constantly watches your response to problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and people. Love leaves a legacy. How you treated other people, not your wealth or your accomplishments, is the most enduring impact you can leave on earth.  Do you want to be remembered as someone who turned their nose up at other sinners? Someone who judged the homosexuals, the prostitutes, the alcoholics, the adulterers, the thieves, the drug abusers, and the murderers.. instead of reaching out to them? When is the last time you invited a lost individual to attend church with you? Are you too ashamed to be seen with them? Are you too afraid they'll taint your "white as snow", "sin free" life style? Get a grip. No one is too bad to be saved. And you, certainly, are not so good that you don't need saving. We need to realize that we are all sick sinners that need the grace of God. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave..." He GAVE. Love means giving up-- yielding your preferences, comfort, goals, security, money, energy, and time.. for the benefit of someone else. In the bible, Paul tells us "Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again." Reread that sentence. Did he tell us to distance ourselves? Did he tell us to avoid sinners? No. Dig deep down into their hearts and pull them back to Jesus Christ. It's sad that in God's flock, the greatest wounds come from other sheep, not wolves.

None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I both are capable of ANY sin. God knows this, so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track. "Mind your own business" isn't a christian phrase. The bible tells us to "encourage one another daily, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." We are called and commanded to be involved in each others lives. Did it specify what kind of people or what kind of sins? No. If you know someone who has wavered spiritually, what are you waiting for? It is your responsibility to go after them and bring them back into fellowship. James tells us "if you know people who have wandered off from God's truth, don't write them off. Go after them. Get them back." Think about these things the next time you see someone whose life is a little off course. It's better to admit you're a sinner, than to make people believe you're without fault. The empty can be filled, but if you're so self-intoxicated.. you have no room for God. 

I'm a friend of sinners. I'm a daughter and a sister of sinners. I'm a lover of sinners. I seek sinners. I make an effort to save sinners. Why? Because I am one. And so are you. I'm not a saint. I'm a sinner that keeps on trying to be more like Jesus, and let his love shine through me. 

"I want to leave a legacy.
How will they remember me? 
Did I choose to love? 

Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things? 
I want to leave an offering.
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically 
And leave that kind of legacy."

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