Tag Archives: Golden Rule

But what about…

Grace 101

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.)

 

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Love Your Neighbor

Grace 101

Until I know myself, I cannot know others.  Until I value myself, I cannot value others.

It is interesting that Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves.  In fact, it was the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  He told us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It seems important for us to notice that Jesus valued us.  He didn’t just demand that we take care of others.  He expected that our love and kindness to others would flow out of our identity.

Let me repeat that:  Our love and kindness to others should flow out of our identity.

What if it doesn’t?  What if it comes out of a sense of duty or some misguided attempt to gain points with God through service?  A great deal of “love and kindness” is not natural.  Much of it comes because it is demanded or expected.  This is what we hear in so many sermons and pep talks.  “Get out there and bless others.  You’ll get yours in the life to come.”  “Jesus commands you to do good, particularly to those in poor nations where the gospel is not widely preached.”

So dutiful and obedient moms and dads pack up their families and move to the mission field.  They connect with others who “serve” by giving money and they leave their homes and jobs and extended families.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not against missions and evangelism.  I believe some are called by God to go and do these things.  But when Christian service, even the most sacrificial, comes out of a sense of responsibility instead of identity, things can become pretty difficult.

I have heard so many stories of people who are in great pain on the mission field, or in the church, or in some program the church promoted—because they felt coerced or shamed into service.  Some were outright manipulated.  Many were deceived about the amount of support they would get.  So they struggle apart from their support structures and without adequate means to do well.  And they become angry, afraid, and bitter.

I am reading about a blogger who lied about her needs in order to get people to give her money.  People are upset.  Some gave very generous amounts.  But it is interesting to see how people deal with the fraud.  It seems to me that those who gave out of their identity, because they are giving people who love to help others, are just shrugging their shoulders and moving on.  They are not crushed and will give again.  Others, who gave because they were tricked and manipulated, are not so easily soothed.  Some want their money back.  Some are talking about legal action.  Now, I am not suggesting that one group is somehow better.  I am simply observing a general pattern.  When kindness flows from identity, that identity does not suffer when abused.

You see, knowing who we are helps us know what to do in so many situations.  Be true to yourself.  Let your action flow out of who you are.  When you understand who you are in Christ, your actions will reflect who He is in you.

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