I’ve encountered a lot of people who have been burned by Christians and the Church and now avoid churches and religion at all cost and I’ve been thinking lately about the things that Christians tend to be known for: anti-abortion, anti-gay, being judgmental, and hypocrisy. It makes me so sad to think that this is what the name of Jesus has come to mean to the world…and the world has a legitimate reason to believe that this is true of Christians and, by extension Christ, because this is the message that they hear screamed out and acted upon by the Church. I wonder if this incorrect message is being portrayed because the motivations of Christians have gotten wonky.
First off, I think that we should be known for what we stand for…not against. I know many of you have heard this thought before…but I want to break it down a little bit for those who haven’t. Regardless of your stance on subjects like abortion and homosexuality, Jesus is not pro-hate. Jesus loves everyone and it is his wish that every single person on Earth, regardless of where they are in their spiritual growth or state of sin, would enter into relationship with him. Every single person. Soak that in for a second. That means that he loves and pursues the liars, cheaters, adulterers, murderers, rapists, child-molesters, gossips…he pursues caucasians, hispanics, asians, africans, and every other people group or mixture of groups, he pursues women, men, children, cross-genders, and every sexual orientation…he pursues EVERYONE and he does it because his love is BIG ENOUGH for everyone. That is why he is a God worth worshipping…He is BIG ENOUGH to handle our stuff. So, as a follower of Jesus, my love should also be big enough for everyone and that should be my motivation when I interact with anyone.
Secondly, we’ve all heard “Love the sinner…hate the sin.” Well, yeah, there is truth to that…but we don’t tend to study what that might look like. First off, every person on Earth is a sinner. So, again…all inclusive here. But what does hating sin look like? Well, for one thing, it is understanding what sin actually is…it’s not a list of “wrongs.” Sin means, basically, missing the mark. Think of a target and the goal is to land your arrow in the bullseye…sin is when the arrow lands anywhere other than the bullseye. God has a perfect plan for our lives…a plan that leads to life and growth and beauty. When we veer off of that plan…either by doing something harmful or neglecting to do something beautiful…we have missed the mark. Human nature is to categorize those sins or weigh them…and if we are honest, we try to minimize the weight of our own sins and maximize the weight of the sins of others so that our stance looks better…but truth is, missing the mark is missing the mark…whether you are an inch outside of the bullseye or aiming in the wrong direction all together. So, what does hating sin look like? I think that it looks like loving the sinner (read every person you interact with including yourself) so much that it breaks your heart to see them receive anything other than God’s very best for their lives. Hmmmm…the motivation is a bit different than hating something isn’t it? I do this with my kids all the time…I tell them “I simply love you too much to let you do things that will harm you or others in the long-run. I love you too much to let you continue down a path that is dangerous for you…so I must speak and demonstrate truth and love into your life.” Hating sin does not mean standing in righteous indignation while looking down your nose at someone else…because your sin is just as big and God’s love has to be just as big to cover your sins as it does to cover anyone else’s sin.
(So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:7, 10, 11 KJV))
Understand, Jesus didn’t tell the woman to continue in her sin…of course he didn’t…it wasn’t a healthy path of life full of beauty…it was a damaging and painful path…he simply loved her well and encouraged her to pursue God’s best for her life instead of continuing to pursue brokenness. Also note, Jesus did not enter into debate about whether the woman was participating in sin…deep down, she knew…she didn’t need those un-loving people to tell her it was sin…she knew…and we know…we know when we feel distant from our Lord and we know that we are the ones who choose the distance. So, what does hating sin looks like?…it looks an awful lot like loving the sinner.
For those of you who have been injured by the Church or by individual Christians or be me specifically, I would like to officially apologize. I am sorry for the pain and brokenness. I am sorry for our lack of love and compassion. I am sorry for not identifying with your plight. Like you, I am still growing and still get it wrong. But I would love to walk this path of growth with you…I would love to continue to pursue Jesus with you…I would love to learn from you and with you. I would love to hold hands on this journey and, in doing so, help each other stay on our feet and keep our feet closer to the path of beauty and life and joy. So, how are you doing with this? Is there a group of people that you are unable to love well? What can you do to learn to love them better? What can you do to pursue God’s best for them? Do you find yourself entering into debates about whether or not something is sinful? How could you better approach things?
I’m praying God’s absolute best for all of you. Much love friends.