We come up with all the right phrases:
“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
“Do unto others that you would have them do unto you.”
But what does that REALLY LOOK LIKE…
What does that look like in the HARD situations???
… when someone hurts you and you struggle to forgive?
… when you disagree with their view on something?
… when they lie or cheat or steal?
Sometimes I feel like we have all the right words, and it sounds okay, but it’s not happening.
A bold statement, but one I believe is true:
As The Church (not any specific congregation or denomination, the body of Christ as a whole) we do NOT do a good job of accepting people who live in ways we might not agree with. We just don’t. Whether it’s cohabitation, or homosexuality, or adultery, or whatever it may be that we believe isn’t right, a divide has been created. We never meant to create an “us” and “them” mentality… but it’s there. “We” and “they”.
I feel like “we” do okay when it comes to the words: “it’s the same as any other sin… we love you, just not what you’re doing… ” and “we” truly believe it, but somehow that’s not what “they” hear. Instead they hear, “because we don’t agree with what you’re doing, you aren’t welcome here and if you do come around, we’ll judge you ‘in the name of love.’ … in the name of showing you the ‘right’ way.” We don’t want to communicate that, really, we want to love.
And somewhere in the midst of standing outside a school this morning watching students file in for the day… sitting there as they hear the news that a classmate decided to take his own life… finding out that one reason he decided life wasn’t worth living, was bullying he received because of his homosexuality…
somewhere in the midst of that it kind of hits you in the gut that our concept of hate the sin, love the sinner may sound nice, and again, we may truly believe it, but it is NOT getting translated into reality.
Now, I do not know the details of this specific situation nor what all played into this student reaching the point where he felt there was no hope left, no reason to live. You can ask the “whys” and “whatifs” until you’re blue in the face, but again, those questions will continue to remain unanswered. Whether something could have changed this student’s mind or not, I do not know; however, I DO know that as a whole, we Christians struggle with dealing with some of these “touchy” topics. In this case… the suicide… the bullying… the homosexuality. Maybe for you it’s something else that makes you squirm in your seat.
God, I don’t understand how we can so quickly take the gospel and somehow turn it into something that judges. How do we twist the words of Jesus so that they no longer match the man whom we know hung out with “tax collectors” and “sinners”? How do we so easily take the HOPE out of the good news of Christ and replace it with more law?
I don’t have an answer.
I wish I did.
In the midst of disagreements, uncertainty, and our own sinful nature, how do we offer hope?
How can we better LOVE people to Christ?
As I’ve been thinking and praying and searching God’s Word for answers to this, I must say I don’t have a conclusion, but a few things come to the surface in my mind:
God’s kindness leads to repentance. (Romans 2:4) We can’t show the love of Christ by telling someone they are wrong. Yes, there is time to call someone out for their sin, but when we see that in Scripture it’s talking about fellow believers, not non-Christians.
Think about yourself for a minute… when we do something wrong, our hearts begin to convict us, right? Even if we do the sin willingly, the law is there, again and again in our face. We may try to ignore it or reason it away or rationalize our behavior, but when it comes down to it, we know deep inside we are wrong. That is because God has written his law on our hearts… all of us… even those who do not believe in Him…
“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts accusing…” (Romans 2:14-15)
Okay, so here’s where I’m going with this… if the law is already condemning us… then what we need (even when we seem to ‘be okay’ with our sin) is GOSPEL! We need GOOD NEWS! It’s God’s kindness and love that LEADS to repentance… not shoving their sin, that is already condemning them, back in their face. We often think that the law has to come before the Gospel, but in reality, the law is already there. I had a professor once that talked about it like an Oreo Cookie Sandwhich: “Gospel-Law-Gospel”. You START with Gospel, you show them a glimpse of the abundant life God has for them. You help them taste and see that the Lord IS good. As they see that, the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin and then we get to come back in again and point them to the good news of God’s grace. God’s KINDNESS LEADS TO REPENTANCE. (oh and let’s not forget the whole speck of sawdust/plank thing too!)
AGAIN, that sounds great, but what does this LOOK like.
As I stumbled upon a verse in Ephesians this morning, I began to see a clue:
SPEAK ONLY WORDS THAT MAKE SOULS STRONGER
“When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger.“ Ephesians 4:29 (NCV)
I still don’t know how exactly to put this unconditional, kindness-that-leads-to-repentance, kind of love in to practice, but I think it’s found somewhere in setting our minds to only speak works that make souls stronger.
Maybe that’s the filter we use when we get into a heated discussion about any controversial issue of the day… “Is what I’m saying making a soul stronger?” “Could any part of what I’m saying tear someone down?”
Like I remembered reading in a blog post a few months ago, instead of belittling children around us when they can’t do what we think they should… SPEAK WORDS THAT MAKE SOULS STRONGER.
Instead of talking behind people’s back, gossiping, making things bigger than they need to be, step up and speak words of truth DRENCHED in love and grace. By doing this… you MAKE SOULS STRONGER.
Instead of picking on the disabled one, the homosexual one, the “different” one (yes, even us adults)… SPEAK WORDS THAT MAKE SOULS STRONGER.
Instead of giving in to the easy way, the way our sinful nature would have us believe is natural… let us step up and CHOOSE to SPEAK WORDS THAT MAKE SOULS STRONGER!
Will you join me today?
Will you give up trying to change people and instead change the way we interact with people?
Will you speak strong words?
Will you try?
We will fail. I know that. We’ll mess up and at some point speak words that tear down. BUT there is grace and maybe as we experience this grace more and more for ourselves, it will automatically flow into our conversations with others. And despite our failure to ALWAYS speak words that make souls stronger, maybe in the parts of our efforts that are successful, we can make ONE soul stronger.
Maybe, by God’s grace, He can use our strong words to draw His children closer to Him.
Thoughts???… I want to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with what I said? Do you disagree? What other ways have you found to love people instead of judging them, no matter what the situation, the hurt, the pain?