Loving the Sinner
There are a lot of issues out there that put up challenges for the average Christian. Discussions that I had this morning made me realize that this is perhaps one major area that many struggles with; loving the sinner.
But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (AMP)
I could end this article right here with just this single verse, because we are to be the emulation of Christ. Not a perfect replica by any stretch of the imagination, but we are to strive to become exactly like Him. Till he rewards us with our perfect bodies, the chance of us getting close is highly suspect.
But, we are to strive to be like Him, and one of His defining features is that He Loves relentlessly. No reservation; no limitation; He loves! Where we really must exactly focus on loving without hypocrisy.
Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:9-10 (HCSB)
It’s not all that easy. We find ourselves caught sometimes by our emotions. Our flesh responds to the stimulus that it is bombarded with and it is only the Holy Spirit living in us that can help us resist the temptation to judge, to reject, to put off those who exist in a place that we can’t even imagine residing in.
Detest Evil – It often is the easiest thing for us to do. However, it is critical that we faithfully separate the sin from the sinner. Detest the sin! Love the sinner. Jesus’s approach to all of us is one transported through love; His love! We are to extend that love through our interactions with the world around us. If we dare allow our contempt for the sin to cross over to the sinner, we quickly quash whatever potential for that love to do its work.
Cling to Good – Clinging to good while it might seem like a simple matter for us, often is where we fail at this act of hating the sin and loving the sinner. The reason we fail is that we transfer our version of righteousness against the sinner’s actions and ultimately in our eyes they fail to meet our standard. Jesus doesn’t do this. He loves unconditionally the sinner. But He is a righteous judge as well and therefore can’t tolerate sin.
We don’t have to participate in the sin to love the sinner. Sometimes we feel like if we shed tolerance we are embracing righteousness, but that isn’t how this works. We only have the opportunity to be righteous, because it was given us by Christ Jesus. It isn’t even our righteousness, it is Christs and he simply covers us with it. We aren’t necessarily any better as a result because it isn’t us that encompasses that righteousness. It is the righteousness of Jesus.
Have we absolved ourselves of all our sins? Have we transformed our being from the flesh to that of a pure spirit? Have we found and embraced the magical ability to be undistinguishable from our Lord and Master Jesus Christ?
NO, NO, and NO! We cannot. We will never!
Because it is only Christ who can absolve us of our sin, it is only Christ who can transform weak corrupted flesh into grace in the Spirit, and it is only Christ who can imbue us with the power to overcome to be the earthly representation of God’s Only Son!
In fact, when it comes right down to it, we resemble that degusting sin, that grips the sinner, rather than we do the Christ that purchased our salvation. But were it not for Grace, His Grace, we would be just as condemned as they.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23 (HCSB)
We have family members who live a homosexual lifestyle. So how do I ‘Love without hypocrisy’ in that situation. This may be hard for some to deal with. In truth, it is something that we all struggle with. We all have to identify that line, that we will not cross. But it isn’t like we don’t have scriptural guidance on the matter.
Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret.
Ephesians 5:11-12 (HCSB)
Don’t participate, it is as simple as that. Loving the sinner doesn’t mean we have to participate in their sin. I do believe that this is the benchmark for us in dealing with those who are actively sinning. A bit like the antitheses of the Niki motto; Just don’t do it!
So, when you have a relative wo is in a homosexual relationship and they want to have their significant other come to dinner with you, what do you say? Do you forbid this? Do you tell them if you have to bring them along then you just don’t need to come at all? Or do you say sure, bring them?
What about if the same ‘couple’ determines that they want to get married? They invite you to the ceremony. Do you go? Do you help out with the arrangements? Do you help fund the event?
As hard as these questions may seem, the scripture gives a clear indication of where the line is drawn. We don’t have to guess, the Scripture tells us, ‘Don’t participate’.
So, in the two scenarios I would say yes to the dinner guest, and no to the wedding ceremony.
By hosting a meal for ‘the couple’, you are not condoning their relationship. You are not even acknowledging that relationship. You are sharing a meal with people who like yourself, are flawed and unworthy of the grace, under which you benefit.
You are not participating in their sin nor are you encouraging it, you are eating a meal, having a conversation, and loving on them.
As far as the wedding ceremony, it is a different thing. The ceremony in and of itself acknowledges a societal acceptance of a union that is in its essence unholy and defiles both partners. Attendance is to condone, and thusly participate in that defilement.
This is precisely why Christian cake makers, photographers, and other professionals who have been asked to provide services for gay weddings have found it incumbent to refuse to participate in the event, by providing their goods or service.
At this writing, the courts are beginning to see this more and more as a religious rights issue, which is a good thing in my estimation, however, even if the courts did not, it wouldn’t change the Christians responsibility to ‘not participate’.
And as far as the other questions that were bundled with this one; the answer is still no. Helping out with the arrangements is to participate. Financial assistance to put on the ceremony would also be participation as well.
Now this was only given to show just how fine that line is between loving the sinner and condoning sin. While simple in definition, it is much trickier in execution.
Let’s take another scenario; let’s just say we have a family member who lies so much that they can’t even identify the truth from their lies. In fact, they have habitually done this so much and so long that they have evolved a story line that is pure imagination.
Do we challenge them on the facts? Do we call them out on the lie, whenever we can? Do we set up traps for them to force them to see their error? Just how do we deal with this.
The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that plots wicked schemes,
feet eager to run to evil,
a lying witness who gives false testimony,
and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (HCSB)
God hates these things. I’m thinking that is also why those that regularly participate in such activity tend to put me in a defensive posture. I’ll be very straight with you, the first issue is a piece of cake for me to deal with, but this one is something that I have to guard against constantly.
The thing we need to consider is that despite God’s distaste for these things, it is these things that he hates, not the sinner! So, I in like kind must try to elevate my behavior to His standard as best I can.
At the same time, I need to focus on the other directive that Jesus gave us which is to Love as he Loves. Actually, if it were not for that loving part then I might be able to breeze through this one without much trouble.
In this situation, I’m convinced that what Jesus would have me do, is to listen and try to make it clear that I don’t necessarily agree with the individual’s comments but at the same time don’t press so hard on that point that I drive a wedge between the individual and me.
I guess where I stand in practice, is to lead with love at all costs. If you feel this makes sense maybe you might adopt it as well.
My objection, or insistence on making the liar aware of their lie must be buffered by love. Love takes precedence, because without love, there is no hope. Separation of the sin and the sinner is difficult in these situations. If we focus on love, we maintain the relationship and with it the potential of keeping open communications between us and the target of that love.