This post was originally put up on Facebook on June 27, 2015.
My mother and grandmother taught me a lot of things when I was growing up. Two things that they said often was “If you don’t have anything good to say, it’s better to say nothing at all” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
There has been a lot of stuff going on in this country over the last couple months and there’s been some finger pointing, some name-calling, and some less-than-optimal reactions from those that are supposed be an example to everyone in our society.
Some people are out on public forums, denouncing churches for showing tolerance instead of condemning the actions of people. This is what I would like to address here.
I’m not going to argue about what is “sin” and what isn’t, because I think the Bible makes it pretty clear. On this point, I generally don’t disagree with those who feel that the Christian churches are not as vocal as they should be. I do disagree, however, with the reaction they want to see, and this is why.
I don’t think there are any serious Christians that will disagree with the idea that there is no better example to follow than that provided by Jesus Christ. “Christian” does, after all, mean “little Christ” or even “Christ-like”. Consider, then, the example that Jesus presented:
- He went to people where they are. (John 4:3-4)
- Even though He knew quite well what people had done, he generally
didn’t berate them, though He would have been uniquely justified
to do so. (John 4:7-18; John 8:1-11)
- Jesus showed grace to a sinful world. He did not waste his time
condemning a world that was condemned already (John 3:17)
Why do people insist on doing otherwise? There isn’t a soul reading this that hasn’t done something “bad” or “sinful” at one point or another in their lives, especially me. Why are people setting boundaries where there should not be one?
I’m NOT talking about accepting sinful behavior- Jesus did not do that. I AM talking about reaching out to people and showing the same grace to them that Jesus showed to those around Him.
I know people who honestly believe that someone that is gay cannot be saved. they point at verses like 1 Corinthians 6:9 (“… Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind …”). I would like to remind those people to not stop there, but read the next two verses (“10/Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11/And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”). This is critical here: “such were some of you”. There were people in the Corinthian church that fit every one of those categories… “but ye are washed”. They were able to be saved.
The fact that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that they were sanctified tells me that the people that he wrote to had turned away from their sinful behavior. He also indicates that it was “by the Spirit of our God”, not by the actions or words of their peers, by which their sanctification, their being apart from the world, came about.
As a Christian, it is not our job to criticize, mock, or torment people for their behavior. It is our job to show grace to them, explain the Gospel to them, and let the Holy Spirit lead them in the direction they should go. We are not to condone errant behavior, but it doesn’t help matters if we make fun of people or openly hate them for what they may have done.
When a woman was brought before Jesus after having been caught in the act of adultery, what was his recation? Did He call her names or berate her for what she had done? No. He was calm. He chastized the group for their reaction (they had rather conveniently neglected to bring the man with them, if the woman was caught in the act, after all), and when only the accused remained, he told her to go and sin no more. He did not get in her face. She knew what she did and that it was wrong. He simply and calmly gave her a new direction to go.
We can do no less.
Peter asked Jesus about forgiving others – basically showing grace – in Matthew 18 at verse 21. Jesus’ answer is striking (“seventy times seven”, effectively saying more times than you will count). He then gave an example of the importance of forgiving others, from verses 23 to 35.
If we as Christians become legalistic toward others after all we have been forgiven for, what can we expect from God?