There are times when the preacher goes from preaching to meddling. Some people might think of this post as meddling. You might be right.
Jesus told us to treat others in the way we would want to be treated. I think there’s a reason He said that. It’s because you will never receive what you are unwilling to give to others.
You see, the hardest part of the path is not what we find in the church or even in our judgment of ourselves. The part of the path that is least likely to receive the message of grace is our judgment of others. We see the sins of others more clearly than we see our own. We sometimes have less patience and forgiveness for others than we would like to experience ourselves.
Often, when I talk with people about grace, the fact that God has dealt with our sins and no longer holds them against us and has done everything necessary for us to be saved, I get a response like this: “That’s nice but what about…?” The example given is usually some behavior observed in others that is offensive to the person. Usually it’s something the person doesn’t see in himself.
Can you live with your girlfriend and still be saved? Can you drink to excess and still be a Christian? Can you be a part of XYZ church and still go to Heaven? Can you smoke, cuss, look at porn, cheat on taxes, steal cable TV, lie, drive badly, or have doubts about some facts in the Bible? If these behaviors won’t keep a person out of Heaven, what will?
It is very difficult for us, even with an understanding of grace, to let go of the judgments we learned. We have invested in a game that measures success on the basis of doing better than others. Notice that it is not doing well, not really. No, we have trouble believing that we can do well, but we sure can do better than some of the people we know.
Listen, I do this. I suspect we all do. I know grace teachers who proclaim boldly the love of God and sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus but criticize and complain about other people’s behavior. I know that there are certain things that trigger my irritation and are hard to ignore when it comes to letting Jesus deal with His people. After all, they are only accountable to Him, not to me.
Why do we judge? Some of it comes from the values drilled into us by parents, church, or life. We see certain behaviors as wrong, simply because we were taught they were wrong. Some people, according to our prejudices, are unacceptable because of those behaviors.
And some of this comes from the energy and frustration we spend trying to avoid the passions and temptations that come along in our lives. We work to stay away from sin, and then we become frustrated when we see others who don’t seem to try to avoid it at all. We are especially tested when we are supposed to understand that Jesus accepts them just as He does us.
But listen: how will we ever really accept the truth about the way the Lord accepts us if we can’t believe that He accepts others the same way? If He rejects one because of a certain behavior, then why would He not reject us when we do the same thing—or anything else that is sin in His eyes? We will not receive the joy and peace of knowing the love of God if we don’t see that He accepts all people just as He accepts us.
Yup, that’s meddling. Lord help me to remember this throughout the day!
(Since I wrote this post, I have received a comment on the previous post that has prompted me to add this paragraph. When others hurt us, they are accountable to God for their sin. If they truly belong to Him and He chooses to forgive them, that’s His business because He is their Master and they answer to Him. But that doesn’t make their actions less evil or sinful. God is not the Author of evil nor does He condone evil done by the hands of His people. We can acknowledge this without being legalistic or unforgiving. It is certainly true that Christians can hurt each other and participate in the work of the evil one as we operate in the flesh. There are many admonitions against believers hurting each other in Scripture. If we fail to understand that Christians can do things which are evil, we will misplace the blame for that evil. Instead, we must allow the Lord to love and forgive as He wills and trust His servants to His hands. He may discipline or change them, but He will not stop loving those who are His. And remember, not all who claim His name are His.)