What’s your take on the following statements?
“A husband’s responsibility is not to make his wife perfect. A husband’s responsibility is to make sure his wife knows how God feels about her when she’s not perfect.”
That’s either a very poor paraphrase of what I heard during a wedding ceremony this past weekend or it’s what I wanted to hear the minister say. Either way, it made me think.
What is the role of Christ’s body, the Church, when addressing the imperfections of those around us? How do we address the sins of others? How are we to behave when others fail? When are we allowed to “drop the hammer” on the unrepentant general population?
Many of God’s people gather weekly in private public places, out of the view of their neighbors, to hear each other rail against the immorality of this present generation of sinners. The results of this practice are:
• We thank God we’re not like others, sinners. We feel good about what we don’t do.
• We know we fail, but we’re not about to tell others. We’ll never ask for help with our struggles. The message is clear inside the walls of the sanctuary. God doesn’t like sinners. God doesn’t like me when I sin.
• Our world remains unredeemed and unchanged..
Is there a time to address the sin in other people’s lives? Yes, but let’s talk about something else first.
Is it just my imagination or is God’s confrontation of sin in the Bible primarily between him and his covenant people? I’m not saying all of it. I’m saying most of it. God corrects Israel or Jesus corrects his Church. Even Herod, who took his brother’s wife and was publicly called out by John the Baptist, was considered part of a covenant people (Israel). I know I’m not going to win this argument. I know we’re to cry out against injustice. I know we’re to call others to repentance, to a change of mind which leads to a change of behavior. I’m just saying most of the confrontations over sin in the scriptures are with those who would call themselves “God’s people”.
Therefore, I make three observations:
1. People who claim to love God and want to follow Jesus as Lord in their lives are not like the general population. They should possess the person and power to walk a new life.
2. People who come to a place in their lives where it matters to them what God says are ready to see what the Bible says in any and every area of their life.
3. Most of the public addressing of sin behind the closed doors of the “church” should address the sins of the church itself.
How should we deal with sin in our lives and the lives of other believers? Here’s where the Good News is really good!
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:1, 2)
“Restore”, “gently” and “carry” are key words in helping brothers and sisters in Jesus deal with our struggles. Sin is not without cost. It cost Jesus everything. Our forgiveness is either by our own works or by his grace. If it is by grace then it is not by works. If it is by grace then I cannot keep it by works. If it is by grace then I already know how God feels about me when I fail. This is not free or cheap grace. This is fact! It cost Jesus everything. I have by grace been put into Jesus Christ. I am forgiven, accepted, adopted and made holy. Nothing will ever separate me from his love. I am safe and secure. I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.
I can try to motivate others by works or by grace. The results are not the same. People can do things because they fear what God will do to them if they don’t — or people can do things because of what God has already done for them in Jesus and will do through them by the life of Jesus. The results are not the same. I can tell a brother who sins that God is mad at him and wants nothing to do with him or I can tell him the truth. I can act as if God is mad at him and wants nothing to do with him or I can sit with him and walk with him in his struggle. I can tell him “God is over you” or I can remind him God is like the father who sits on the porch waiting for our return, then runs down the lane, kisses us and throws us a party.
We can tell the world God is mad at them or we can tell them Jesus took the wrath of God and paid the total sin debt of the entire world. We can act as if God is mad at the world and all of the filthy sinners who keep on sinning (in other words, doing what is natural to them) or we can love on them and walk with them through their struggles. I marvel at how comfortable a totally righteous, sinless Jesus was with sinners. I realize he knew what Abraham before him knew. God would provide himself a lamb.
How can we help others in simple ways? Tell them the truth about how God really feels about them as demonstrated in Jesus Christ and act appropriately toward them. Make sure they know by our behavior that God loves, accepts and longs for relationship with them through Jesus.