“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
– John 3:17
This post may draw controversy but our hope is that it will shed light on an issue facing Christians continually. Every day believers in Christ are surrounded by the practices of sin and many feel compelled to stand up and say something. They feel drawn to announce that sins are against God’s will and must be stopped, and that sinners must forsake their practices and turn to God in order to be freed from their sins. They parade, and protest, and shout out, and point fingers, and wave bibles.
The difficulty with that response is that unbelievers have no desire to approach God because He – in their eyes – is too condemning. He is not shared as Someone they could easily turn to for salvation. And that begs the real question, how did Jesus approach the issues of sin when He waked this earth as a man?
“When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”
– Mark 2:16-17
Jesus was in no way permissive because He many times admonished others to “go and sin no more“, but He chose to reach out to people with the truth about sin – not about sins. His concern was showing the love of the Father, and the prison of sin, and the freedom of new life. He sat with sinners and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and they were drawn to listen and to reconsider their lives. He did not sit with them and berate them for being gay, or adulterers, or thieves, or liars. Actually, the only ones He did chastise were those who were supposed to know better. The “good” religious leaders.
So what was Jesus showing us? That He came to save – not to condemn. And how does that translate to us? Quite simply, attending rallies and protests against any specific sin is really a waste of time and not something we can claim to be doing in the Spirit of God. The ruler of this world is judged, so trying to just fix the ways of this world is contrary to God’s will. And that is all we’re doing when we protest the actions of others in the manner of this world. We are only trying to make our existence better instead of showing others the Way to freedom.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.”
– 1 John 2:15-16
Consider these two statements:
- You are wrong! You must change!
- You are trapped. I can help.
Which is more likely to draw a person to God? Jesus came to show us that we were trapped in sin, and to tell us He can help – and then He helped. He did not leave a struggling sinner feeling alienated or alone but instead drew them – not pushed them – drew them to the truth. And the truth is, we cannot change our ways without Him. It is by His Spirit only that we can find the desire, will, and strength to walk in accordance to His ways.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
– John 6:44
So we, as believers, can work with God in drawing people to Christ, or we can be contrary and make Him unpleasant in their eyes.
the only ones He did chastise were those who were supposed to know better. The “good” religious leaders.
Do we just ignore sin then? No, sin does harm. It steals, kills and destroys. And it is way of the devil who is a fallen angel and much more intelligent and clever than any of us. To argue against his ways in the manner of men is to invite ridicule and shame. Only in Christ can we address the harm – by doing good. Seek the healing of the gay man dying of aids. Pray for the woman who stole $20 from you and see if she might need $20 more. Listen to the husband who pours out his anguish for cheating on his wife and believing his marriage is hopeless.
Then people will begin to see Christ through our actions, and will be drawn to Him, and will be changed by Him. Without Him none of us could escape from the hold and practices of sin, and it is good for us to always remember that. We cannot change the mind of sinners, but Jesus can.
Are we then permitting sin? No, we are certainly not permitting any sins because they are contrary to the ways of our Lord. We no longer practice them and we do not encourage others in their practice. Instead we are living and exampling the way to truth and freedom and inviting others in. Each of us came to Christ first, and then the sin that held us was released and the practices we held began to be changed. We did not have to stop our practices before we came – we only had to want Him and His way instead of our own.
We cannot change the mind of sinners, but Jesus can.
Just as I am. That is the grace we have received, and the grace we are called to extend to those who do not yet understand His kindness.
“…it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to him and change the way you think and act”
– Romans 2:4b
Settle this in the truth then, that we are still here in this world solely to do good and show others the kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’”
– John 8:10-11