To Be Just as He is
In our last time together, we addressed the placard that has been making the rounds on social media sites (and at various rallies). At the heart of the issue is same-sex marriage, and the placard is aimed at the Biblical view of marriage – and those who hold so firmly to that view (mainly Christians!). If you have not seen the placard, I include it’s words here…
Those who are at odds with God’s view of things (as revealed in the Bible) are becoming quite vocal within our culture. And their way of thinking has been gaining a great deal of momentum. Those with Biblical values are being portrayed as “hateful,” “narrow-minded,” “outdated,” and, even in some cases, “dangerous.”
There is a lot of resentment. Especially among groups who feel they have been alienated, demonized, or marginalized. The gay community is one of those groups.
It would be easy to go on the offensive – to stand tall on our moral soapbox and fight back. After all, the lines of morality are quickly being blurred in our current day. In so many ways, Christians tend to feel like we have to be the stalwart defenders of the moral standards we have held and cherished (as a society) for decades. We see it all slipping away – and we are strongly compelled to do something, before it is too late. Before all that we have known slips into the clutches of the shadows.
But here is the point. Our Judaeo-Christian culture is fading. And it is our fault.
We have so lost touch with the hurts and the needs of the people all around us, that they have had no choice but to seek their own path, find their own way, define their own views of right and wrong. They are doing the best they can. They needed the help of God’s people, but we have been so inward-focused, that we have largely failed to be the helpers they have needed. They have needed the Light – and we have been hiding under our religious “bowls.” (see Matthew 5:15)
So now, they are the enemy. They stand in support of everything that opposes the laws and standards of God. They feel justified in doing so. They feel they are right – and we are the ones in the wrong. They are the ones who feel they are “enlightened” – and we are the ones hiding our heads in the proverbial sand.
Just what are we supposed to do with that?!
Perhaps, it is time we really listened to what they are trying to say. Maybe we should start accepting people where they are (instead of where we want them to be!). I think it is time we practiced what we say we preach… and love people just like God loved us.
Sometimes we forget that, before we were His, we were all the enemies of God (see Romans 5:10) – dead set against Him and His ways. But then, His love broke through our stubborn hearts, and brought us to be His friends. Jesus did not come and die for us when we were doing well, or just needed some improvement, or a little spiritual tweak. He came when all of us were awful sinners – deserving of nothing but eternal scorn and punishment. He came, not to condemn us, but to love us – and to redeem us – and to make us His very own.
We have no right to treat those who reject the ways of God any differently than Jesus treated us. He loved us, in spite of our selfishness and our foolishness. He just loved us.
But it is always easier to hammer someone with truth than it is to get down in the mire with them, and connect with their hurts. Sometimes we forget that it is not the truth of God that leads us to repentance – but the KINDNESS of God (see Romans 2:4)!
We need to treat all people as Jesus treated the people of His day. Jesus dealt with lots of sinners – often. He rubbed shoulders with prostitutes, tax-collectors (legal thieves!), murderers, adulterers, etc. And somehow, they never felt condemned around Him. They actually liked being around Him. So much so, that the “church-people” (the religious leaders of that day) were offended by Jesus’ acceptance of all these “sinners.” But Jesus’ motivating passion was always love.
Never was this more in evidence than when Jesus was confronted about the woman “caught in the act of adultery.” John 8 gives us the scene. Jesus is teaching at the Temple, and He is interrupted by the alarming case of a woman caught in a most horrific sin. The religious leaders spelled out what should happen to woman (because the Law said she must die for her sin!) and asked for Jesus’ opinion on the matter. (Now, the Scriptures indicate that this was a trap set for Jesus [that the situation was probably contrived to trick Jesus into something they could use against Him]). But Jesus’ response was to write in the dust of the ground! Now we are not told what He wrote, but His words, apparently, made a huge impact on the woman’s accusers. In the end, they all departed the scene – and the “sinful” woman was left alone with Jesus.
His next words teach us volumes! When no one was left to condemn her, Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn you…” Jesus, the perfect One, the Son of God, in the presence of a blatant sinner, refused to condemn or judge or ridicule. He simply extended grace. He acted in compassion. The Law said that He should condemn the guilty one – He could pronounce judgment, legally. He had the right to do so. But He chose mercy instead. He extended grace, above and beyond the situation at hand. He treated her as any of us would hope to be treated, even though we certainly carry our guilt. Jesus’ love reached beyond her guilt and gave her hope, life, and a second chance. He connected with her in the way that only grace can connect us.
But, unless we think that Jesus had no regard for the laws or standards of God, He went on to warn the woman… “Go, now, and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) Jesus is clear. There is a consequence for continually ignoring the ways of God, but He did not offer this warning until He had extended the grace of God first! In other words, Jesus offered the grace of God before He ever offered the truth of God.
Sometimes we forget that it was not a truth that saved us – but a Person.
And this Person extended His grace and mercy towards us so that we might represent Him in this world in which we live. Living His way, loving as He loved, offering the truth ONLY after we have lovingly connected to someone with an abundance of grace.
We cannot escape the fact that same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. We don’t like it. It is NOT right. But all our complaining about it, and all our judgmental attitudes towards those who choose that path, can ONLY create lasting barriers between us. And where there are barriers there can be no opportunity for love – or truth.
Jesus, our Model, came into the darkness of this world and brought the Light. And that Light was centered in His compassion towards sinners – and in His refusal to be the voice of condemnation (even though He did not overlook or excuse any sin).
We note that right after the account of the “woman caught in adultery,” Jesus offered these words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
It’s as if, with the “woman,” Jesus intended to give us an amazing example of what it means to be the Light of the world. The Light is defined in our acceptance and compassion for those who appear to be undeserving of either. When we think about it: that’s how Jesus drew each of us! And once drawn to Him, then, He could impart and invest His Truth into our lives.
The same pattern exists for those of us who would call Jesus, our Lord. If He was a friend to sinners, then we must be. If He refused to condemn the sinful, then we must also refuse. Certainly, there is a time to speak the truth, but it must always be spoken in an atmosphere of love and acceptance (see Ephesians 4:15).
If we are to stem the tide of the onslaught of darkness, it will only happen as we are the Light just as He was the Light…