You know how there are those really simple things which often take years to click with you? For example, the jingle for Kay Jewelers—”Every kiss begins with Kay”—took me over a decade to realize that it was referring to the letter K in ‘kiss.’ (Do you respect me just a little less now? I don’t blame you.) I thought they were just saying every kiss involves our jewelry.
Anyway, I have recently been going through a similar season of epiphany which has to do with returning to the subject of a million sermons and Bible verses: Love. There are so many basic truths and maxims and passages we hear repeated so much they lose all their meaning. I have been returning to their origins and in a way, rediscovering their meanings. These verses include, but are not limited to:
“Remove the log from your own eye before the speck from your brother’s.”
“There is no fear in love.”
“The world will know you are my disciples by your love.”
Something clicked which, honestly, should have clicked years ago but didn’t. And that is, we need to be people who love others before we judge, condemn, and correct them. I’m going to try to word this right: Other people’s sins do no affect your life at all. You do not gain heaven points by pointing out other people’s sin and trying to make them better.
Barring, of course, violence or abuse which does affect you or others, trying to mold and form other people out of a religious motivation is most likely not love. When we try to change people, we are usually not loving them, but trying to form them in our own image.
The most common argument for this—which I have employed in the past—is that correcting their sin is loving them. Granted, that may be the case 5% of the time, and only with close, Christian friends, but is this how we tend to live our lives?
For example, I have some friends here in Guatemala who are a married gay couple. I had dinner with them a few nights ago and it was so much fun! They are intelligent, vibrant and attractive people. They are not Christians, but they are aware of both my faith and my different views of homosexuality. But they also know I put my relationship with them over my beliefs.
Sure, I could lecture them on the evils of their twisted ways every time we hang out, but how long do you think that relationship would last? Is their marriage harming me in any way? Or, am I losing heaven points by not calling them out?
Think about it this way: I would much rather live like Jesus who welcomed the sinner and the outcast to His table. I would rather my friends encounter Him before they ever hear a word about their ‘sinful lifestyle.’ Frankly, they’ve already been told that by a thousand other Christians in the name of love. To summarize:
—I gain nothing by pointing out their own sin to people, especially those who don’t even believe in God.
—I lose nothing by befriending them, loving them, eating with them, seeing them as beloved of God and made in His image.
I’m using the homosexual population as an example for two reasons: 1) They are one of the most stigmatized and alienated populations in the world, especially in the Christian community. Their suicide rates are staggering, and we have the option to contribute to that, or to help heal it. 2) This issue is a very present and ongoing debate in our culture, especially in Christian culture. I want us to remember to humanize our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community rather than use them as a pawn in an argument, regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on.
I can’t help but think that God is happier when we reach out and love the other (in this case, the homosexual) than when we preach at them and drive them away. I wonder which is a more heinous sin: To be gay, or to drive someone away from Jesus’ church because they are gay.
Maybe it’s not just homosexuality. Maybe you see someone smoking a cigarette and fear that by loving them, you are encouraging smoking. Or alcohol. Or weed. Or dancing. Or reading Rob Bell. Whatever it is, don’t let it become a wall between you and this human.
Yesterday I sat in a Chick-Fil-A and listened to these two old ladies gossip about their friends for an hour. Personally, I’d rather welcome a kind gay person into my church than a gossiping straight person. They are included in the same list of sinners, are they not?
I think I’ve spent much of my life in fear: fear that if I was too loving to those outside of Christian circles, I would somehow be in error and sinning. I feared that by accepting them and loving them, I would also be approving of their sins and therefore, God would be angry with me.
This is the definition of having fear mixed into our love, which is directly opposed to John’s words, “there is no fear in love.”
Isn’t that stupid? Do you ever think like this in the back of your mind, or am I alone here? I think we need to ask ourselves some questions to root out the basis of this thinking. Do I trust that God knows what He’s doing in them, and my sole mission is to love them, regardless of the sins they’re doing? Do we trust the Holy Spirit enough to do His job of convicting people of their sin, or do we feel like we need to do it for Him?
(I worded it like that intentionally to sound sophomoric and naive. I mean, you accept your close friends despite their own sins and struggles; chances are, their sins just look more like your own. Mark Sayers says we are more likely to sin in the direction we already lean. If you’re a Democrat, you’re probably not going to suddenly become racist. If you’re a Republican, you’re likely not going to suddenly start celebrating abortion. . . Make sense?)
I think there is a balance here, of course. The Bible says Jesus is full of grace AND truth. We need to strike a balance, just like in everything, but I guess I’ve realized that much of my life has been lived with 90% truth and 10% grace.
I’m beginning to understand what an old school pastor meant when he preached, “If I’m going to err in one direction, I would rather err toward love and grace.” I just can’t read the Bible and come away with this mentality of alienation, judgment, and any sort of lifestyle that would further push people away from Christ.
So may we be people of grace AND truth. May we be people who focus on drawing people toward Jesus, rather than pushing them away (in the name of love). May we look more like the repentant prostitutes than the pious Pharisees, recognizing our own sinfulness long before calling out others’.