I have been pondering a subject that I am not sure I can do justice to in this short column, but I am going to at least share some thoughts with you as I continue to seek the Lord for more insight and understanding. It is a subject that could easily be misunderstood. Considering the times we are living in, as I said last week, the line between what is right and what is wrong has been blurred by most of our society including large segments of the church.
I was curious as to how many times a particular thing that the Bible clearly defines (in my understanding) as sin was mentioned. In the process of my Google search, I realized that even those things that I have always clearly seen in the Word of God are open to differences of interpretation. The line has been blurred by different views and interpretations of certain behaviors even justifying those sins and saying that is really not what the Bible is saying.
Pride is mentioned over 50 times in the Bible and not once is it considered a positive character trait. And yet today we use that word freely to say we are proud of someone for accomplishing something very positive and even redemptive. Most of us understand the different use of the same word. The opposite of pride in the Bible is humility and yet it has sometimes come to mean other things — like poor or weak — in today’s vernacular. Generally speaking, from a biblical perspective, pride leads to downfall and humility leads to life and exaltation.
In the scriptures the word gossip is broken down to at least eight different types, but none of them are considered positive. And yet most of us are guilty of gossiping on some level. I could go on — greed, lying, lust, unforgiveness, judgmentalism are all addressed in the scriptures as sin or character traits and actions that are not considered qualities to be pursued but rather repented of.
But have you noticed that most of us “grade” sins? Certain ones are worse than others and we won’t tolerate them in our midst. And yet we will continue to indulge ourselves or others, allowing and even justifying other “menial” sins to continue.
What ever happened to the desire to be holy? Why are not more believers pursuing a life of purity but rather willing to compromise and live lives of mediocrity and lukewarmness? Has the church lost its saltiness? Many of the younger generation have rejected the type of Christianity they have seen demonstrated in the 20th and 21st century. Part of the reason given is the hypocrisy they have observed, including the “grading” of sins.
In my own church I am aware of a situation where one person is very disturbed and wants our leadership to deal with a particular sin that they see as being much worse than other less obvious sins that are probably going on, including their own shortcomings. This person is very rigid and legalistic and hardly ever seems “happy.” I have spent time with both of these individuals and know that the Lord loves both of them unconditionally. He wants both of them free from any area of their life that is un-Christ like, but He is not condemning either one of these individuals who are precious to Him. God’s unconditional love is available to both of them.
The broken woman caught in adultery and drug before Jesus was ready to receive Christ’s forgiveness and empowerment to go and sin no more. The religious ones were only interested in trapping Jesus and uncovering this woman’s sin. His love covered her sin and gave her the opportunity to live differently. He could have followed the law and stoned her or thrown the first stone, but rather chose to forgive her. He knew that these men who were accusing her were guilty of their own sins and when challenged, every one of them had to leave without throwing the first stone. Only He was guiltless and could have condemned her to death, but rather He gave her the opportunity to live her life differently from that day forward.
Oh that we could have a heart for people like Jesus. Sin separates us from Him and He paid the ultimate price of His own sinless life in exchange for the opportunity for each one of us to embrace His forgiveness. He showed such love and compassion to those who were broken. He did not point the finger of judgment toward them but rather was accused of being the friend of sinners. It was His love that drew Zacchaeus and Matthew and Mary Magdalene to Him. It is His unconditional love working through each one of us that will draw those who are broken and yes, and bound by all kinds of sin, to Him. It will not happen through the judgmental, critical, pharisaical spirit that is so abundantly present in the church today.
I am asking the Lord to help me to be more like Him and less like the religious, pharisaical members of His body that are not representing His nature and character. I do not mean that we should wink at sin or ignore the horrible consequences that usually play out when a person ignores or rebels against the ways of truth, but rather give them an opportunity to see open arms of love inviting them into abundant life and freedom from the ways that lead to death and destruction. I believe that it has to be flesh and blood people expressing His love to them. They do not know how to receive His love directly but when His ambassadors, you and I represent Him, they will come to Him and be healed and set free. Won’t you ask Him to help you love those who so desperately need Him? Won’t you be His hands and heart?