"One of the Pharisees . . . said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.'" Luke 7:39
I’m a little tired of hearing angry Christians running around the world saying “We’ve got it right, and everyone else is wrong!” Granted, the clear teachings of God’s Word are indeed right and anything that contradicts them is wrong. But what bothers me is the extent to which we give equal standing to God’s Word and to our sometimes-twisted attitudes and opinions. I hear us talking all the time about “those people” who are causing moral decline and the politicians who are legislating God out and “do-whatever-you-want” in. We sound so long on mad and so short on mercy.
Sure, there are serious problems in the world. But behind those problems are real people who need the same Jesus that all of us needed when we came to the cross. It’s important to note that in the course of Jesus’ ministry He had more harsh words of reproof for the self-righteous religious folk than He did for the outright sinners whom He came to save. And it should be remembered that He took a big hit from the “good” people for spending time with the religious and social outcasts.
On a nightly cable news show not long ago, a TV preacher made some Bible-thumping statement about AIDS being judgment from God on the gay rights movement and that anyone who is gay doesn’t deserve to live. I was embarrassed, upset, and heartsick all at the same time. Sadly, too many people believe that’s what real Christianity is all about. But nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, that kind of angry rhetoric does not reflect the heart and teachings of Jesus. Jesus said, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6), so in order for me to confidently speak like I have the truth, I need to be sure that I am in sync with Him.
When Jesus came into Jerusalem for the first time after beginning His ministry, He wept over the city’s brokenness. He spent time with sinners and told stories about God’s compassion for prodigals and prostitutes. The heart of Jesus is marked not only with clarity about sin, but is also filled with compassion—not hatred—for those who do not yet believe and understand the truth. As His followers, our hearts should be broken for those who are broken and bent by sin. That means spending a whole lot less time acting like we are the truth and getting busy about pointing people to Jesus who is the Truth. And the best way to point people to Jesus is to start living like He lived.
The apostle James wrote to believers undergoing some tough opposition, instructing them not just to hear the truth but also to do the truth (James 1:22). In other words, we need to let Truth transform us before we try to articulate it to others.
Let’s face it: Sometimes we have to show up for Jesus before we can speak up for Him. We need to show we care by reaching out and meeting the more difficult and not-so-easy-to-deal-with needs of people around us. To tutor an underprivileged kid, to care for a man dying from AIDS, to sit in silence with someone at a nursing home, to visit a widow and help her with her laundry. Maybe, just maybe, after that, we can tell them the truth about what we know to be true in Jesus.
Believe me, a heart that knows you really care might just be ready to care for the Jesus who made you care for them in the first place.
- Do an attitude check. Would you rather hate those who are “big-time sinners,” or love them as Jesus did?
- How can you be more sensitive to those who aren’t quite ready to receive the truth? In what ways can you begin to show the real Jesus to them? Make a list of people you know who upset you because of their lifestyle or publicly proclaimed philosophy. Make it a point to pray for them regularly. Ask God to help you show them the love of Jesus without condoning their lifestyle.
- Read through James 1:1-26. Prayerfully write down some things you could begin doing differently in your life.