One of the saddest things I hear young people say is,
“I’ll come to church once I’ve sorted a few things out…”
It’s a reality that plagues our generation – an internal self-exclusion due to a guilt that should not be validated. It is very unfortunate that church has not always made the best impression throughout the ages. Some people have experienced it as a boring, life-sucking set of regulations. Others have seen it as a vehicle of oppression. Many have lost trust due to character failings in leadership or financial scandal. In the media the church has been portrayed as hypocritical and judgmental. It is so sad to see how young people have chosen to leave rather than join the church as a result.
But no matter what Christians have portrayed in the past, there is something that I believe is very important to clarify. In Christianity there is no moral high-ground. There is no pedestal on which people have the right to stand and judge. Yes, we believe there is a better way to live and make decisions, but we can in no way believe we are superior to any other human being.
Sin is universal… unfortunately
The Bible puts it clearly: we are all sinners. This side of heaven we will always be struggling to not mess up. Yes – some sin is more visible and apparent than others – but in the end we all have areas that need work. No one can be perfect. We will always have to deal with the consequences of emotional moments, rash decisions, neglect or misunderstanding. We will always have to deal with the fallout of other people’s decisions – that affect us in more ways than we will originally be aware.
So this side of heaven we have no authority to judge a fellow human being. Yes, I know that hasn’t stopped people from doing so, but it is definitely not the heart of Jesus. Sin is a sad reality – put simply, it is choosing a path without God instead of one with Him. And if we understand that God always wants the best for us, Christians would respond out of compassion (for one another and others) rather than judgement.
God is kind. And it is only in understanding the depth of that glorious goodness that changes behavior.
How do you love?
It’s not enough to just love someone. You have to master expressing that love in a way that is beneficial. This is where I believe many Christians have got it wrong… I believe the urgency to get people to accept God is, for all intents and purposes, an honest motivator. But reigning down on others with scripture and conviction will only push people away.
It is an immature notion to think that you can simply walk up to an unassuming acquaintance and change their lives in one instance. God is the one who draws people to Himself. There is no place in Jesus’ heart for a “turn or burn” kind of ‘theology’. Love comes first. Grace comes first.
How can you force anyone to change their lifestyle and belief system without revealing that there is a better way of living? The power of your relationship with Jesus lived out (not just your words) should be the very indicator that there is more to life than the fleeting pleasures of our world. Don’t get me wrong – you should definitely share your faith. But don’t force it on others – even if you love them. That is not love outworked.
Jesus’ message was for all people, not just those who had a responsible lifestyle. In fact, He seemed to be way more comfortable with the outright sinners of the day than with any of the prestigious religious leaders.
How God loves
God came to earth as a baby to meet us where we were at. He knew us trying to live right was not going to be enough. He chose to bridge the gap. All of us have no right to be called ‘righteous’ or ‘honorable’. Even if things are going well and you feel like you’re getting a handle on life, your potential to mess up is not far away at all.
God loves first. Warts and all. When you’re at your worst. Whether we receive it or not. He is not repulsed by your mess-ups or confusions – they are the reason He so desperately cares for you. All you have to do is accept that care. The rest of how you live and what you believe is up to you and your relationship with God – outside of marriage and children, it is nobody else’s business. If anyone is outworking their life without it being a direct result of a relationship with God – they will be striving. And that is not God’s intention. He doesn’t want any false self-effort. He wants you to live free and enjoy life.
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