Wednesday, April 11, 2012

LOVE THE SINNER?


"Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying." - AW Tozer

Just before Good Friday I posted the above quote on Twitter and Facebook. One of my friends from high school wasn't sure what the quote meant, so I tried to explain the quote to her. As we began to dialog back and forth, an interesting thread began to develop. 

I explained to her that this quote is meant to be a commentary on how Christians here in America tend to forget that Jesus said "If anyone would come after me, he must first die to himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23). Today, Christians just want to hear stories about Jesus' death and His cross, but want nothing to do with talk of their own dying to self or taking up their own cross to follow Jesus into selfless love for others.

I talked about how Jesus set us an example to love others and that loving others as Jesus expects involves being inconvenienced for the sake of others.

My friend then made a comment about the over used phrase that Christians throw around that says, "Love the sinner. Hate the sin."

In response I said, "If we did more actual loving of people, this phrase wouldn't be such a problem." And I think this is true. Unfortunately, what we see is people who call themselves followers of Jesus doing very little in the way of "Loving Sinners" and far too much in the way of "Hating the Sin" (and therefore the sinner, too).

Until we are marked by our love and known as great lovers of people, it will never matter what we say with our mouths or what our bumper stickers say. 

In other words, "Don't tell me Jesus loves me, SHOW me the love of Jesus."

My friend, who does not identify herself as a Christian, said that this sounded great, but that, in her opinion it seemed like that was ok for some Christians, but not for every Christian.

"Well," I told her, "the problem with this not being for every Christian is that Jesus never gave us any other options." We either follow Him, or we don't. Jesus invited people to follow him, and then he explained what that involved, which is total surrender.

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

My friend responded by saying that if her Christian friends would spend as much time loving and serving others as they did trying to convert her, she would be a much happier person.

The funny thing about this is that Jesus never told his followers to convert anyone. He simply told us to love others, to be known for love, to love God, and to teach others to follow Him too. 

If people don't want to follow Jesus, we're not supposed to beat them up. We just continue to love them.

"Why don't more Christians do this?" my friend asked.

Why? Because once we start trying to actually love one another, or love our enemies, or love the poor we discover - almost immediately - that it is far from easy. It's actually impossible. Why? Because love like this involves sacrifice. It means laying down my desires and wants in favor of meeting another person's needs. This is what "taking up my cross" is all about. My cross is the instrument of death to self so that the life of Christ can live in me - and love through me. That's the only way it works.

The bottom line is, character and actions speak louder than words. Yes, Jesus is about so much more than getting us to love others and demonstrate compassion. This is part of it, certainly, but He's mainly about wanting us to know Him, and sometimes this is more easily accomplished in our hearts when we obey Him in acts of compassion. 

God says this over and over again throughout the Bible: 
"He defended the cause of the poor and the needy (God says), is that not what it means to know me?" (Jeremiah 22:16) 

Here, "Knowing God" is related to showing kindness to the poor. Elsewhere it says: 
"If anyone has material possessions, and sees a brother or sister in need and does nothing, how can the love of God be in him?" (1 John 3:17) 

So, the sharing of possessions is related to sharing the love of God within us? Wow.

Again, the Bible affirms that no human being of flesh and blood is our enemy. We are called to love people, no matter what they believe or how they behave towards us. Our only enemy is spiritual and our only weapons are prayer and trusting in God.

Hopefully the next few decades we'll see more and more Christians focus on the "Loving the Sinner" part than on "Hating the Sin." If so, maybe there's hope for the Gospel to penetrate even the hardest hearts - maybe even our own?

-kg



1 comment:

Chris Simon said...

Right on Keith, Embrace the Cross, die to self, servr others!