As a Christian, I am finding it harder and harder to just hold my nose and watch as American society sinks into decay through moral relativism. The values I was taught as a child both in and outside the church simply do not apply in today’s society. Right is wrong, wrong is right, up is down, black is white! And Atlas shrugged.
But there also has been a disturbing pattern in the church that is just as difficult for me to watch. As Christians we feel our values are under attack in all corners of society, which is exactly what Jesus told us would happen. But in response we’re doing something that crosses the line that I want to address today.
In short many Christians are holding non-believers to Christian standards, judging them, and then condemning them for not meeting Christian values and morals. While I think we’ve all probably done this, my friends it’s not biblical.
Paul makes this point in his first letter to the church at Corinth. Apparently that church had a lot of problems, one of which was the church embracing a member who was committing sexual sin. Here’s what Paul says that interests us for today’s comments, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13a)
I think Paul’s statement is pretty clear within the context of the letter. Paul is saying that as believers we don’t judge those outside the church, only those inside the church. This makes perfect sense when you think of it!
How can you hold someone to a standard in which they don’t believe; about which they don’t have the revealed truth via the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; and in their own power are actually powerless to do anything about? Satan has blinded the eyes of unbelievers yet many in the church feel it’s their job to condemn these unbelievers for the sins they commit that they don’t actually know they are committing! That is not what Jesus taught and it is not what Paul advises.
Jesus’ model was pretty simple: meet people where they are; tell them the truth; love them; and allow them to choose the path they will take. Once he offers the opportunity to follow Him, He does not chase after those who choose not to in order to convince them they’ve made an eternally bad mistake (see the story of the rich young ruler Matthew 19:16-26; and the disciples who left him because His teaching was too difficult John 6:53). No, He lets them decide their path and moves on. Jesus never told an unbeliever he or she was going to hell. If you read carefully you will see his condemnation is for the religious leaders who were perverting the law.
Unfortunately, Christians today are quick to tell sinners they’re going to hell, but I’m afraid those Christians just don’t understand their own theology.
Jesus died on a cross to save the world from sin. He did not die on a cross to save just the Christians from sin. Jesus died one for all, defeating Satan and all sin past, present, and future. Salvation is no longer about sin and paying the price necessary to overcome that sin – Jesus already did that. If you think Christian theology is about sin then Jesus didn’t do anything on that cross.
No, my friends, sin is not the issue. The issue is grace! God offer the free gift of grace to everyone and the question at hand is not whether or not you are a sinner (you are!), but whether you want to accept this free gift from God and spend eternity with Him!
Our God is a God who will give you your heart’s desire. If your heart’s desire is to be with Him for eternity He will give that to you. If your heart’s desire is not to have Him in your life and not be with Him for eternity He will give that to you as well, even though it breaks His heart.
We evangelize to the unsaved because we want to take the blindfold from their eyes and tell them the good news: Jesus paid a price you couldn’t pay and God is offering eternity with Him at no cost to you – just grace through faith.
Instead unbelievers too often hear the church calling them sinners, perverts, unacceptable, deviants, and basically unworthy of God’s love because in their blindness they embrace their sins. What we should be doing is loving them, having compassion and empathy for them, and sharing with them our experience with a Savior who wants to spend eternity with us so much that He died for us.
Shortly after being named Pope, Pope Francis was asked about what he thought about gay marriage. His response was beautiful: “Who am I to judge?”
You see, he gets it. Those outside the church are not held to our standards – they can’t be held to our standard. Any attempt to do so is judging and we are not to judge lest we be judged. Instead we are to show them genuine Christian love even if under our faith we cannot embrace the same things they do. As the Apostle Paul rightly points out, God will deal justly with those outside the church; it’s not our responsibility.
So my fellow Christians we need to stop getting our panties in a twist every time we see someone outside our faith do something that would be offensive inside our faith. Instead we need to trust God more, share our faith more, and love more so that those on the outside might actually be interested in hearing what we have to say about how great it is to be on the inside.
Amen! Sometimes we need reminders about fundamentals. I know I do at least. Tom, you have a knack for saying things in a very memorable way.