NOTE: Please see Parts 1-2 of this series first.
With a holistic view of God, we can now consider how we are to engage others in a spirit of truth and love. And this gets us back to our original concern: how do we balance Christian Kindness between the Sinners that God loves and the sin that God judges? We do not want to focus so wholly upon truth that we leave people feeling condemned and excluded from the invitations of Christ. Neither do we want to focus so intently upon love that we leave people deceived into thinking that repentance is not necessary. We want a balanced approach. Yet we must recognize that people are different. As an example: some people are very bold and self-assured; they might need to hear more about God’s truths. Yet what if their self-assuredness is really just a cover for extreme woundedness; they might be in greater need of knowing how much God loves them. Wounded people tend to feel excluded; and condemned. From a distance, they often hear our voices of condemnation and judgment. They perceive that we have the notion that they do not quite measure up to God’s requirements. They perceive that we have them placed into a nice box called “the rejected” just outside the doors of Heaven. They perceive that we don’t imagine there is an ounce of hope for them.
It is ironic that you and I may not actually be thinking this at all; we may not be saying anything to lead them to this conclusion. Yet they know we are an evangelical or born again Christian and the media or some of our less than gentle “talking heads” have developed a reputation for us…that precedes us. They are uncomfortable with us because they expect that we will denounce them, judge them and find them condemnable. They feel this way before we even open our mouths.There are many such people in our world today. In fact, the Culture War breeds the caricature of judgmental Christians standing unkindly upon absolute truths that get applied in some wacko extremist fashion that leaves some included and others specifically excluded from the invitations of Christ. Whether we earned this reputation or not, this is often the reputation that we have. Like it or not…
In light of this, I will propose to you that while we want to present God in a balanced way to others according to His holistic character of truth and love; we want to be sensitive to the impressions of those we are trying to reach. We may look at their lives and think “Oh boy do they need to know God’s truth about sin and repentance” when really what they might need is “God deeply loves you. He has a plan to prosper you and not to harm you. He is looking for you. And you will find Him. He loves you.” I am intrigued, as I started off saying, by our notions of Christian kindness. I meet many people who feel that when they offer God’s kindness, they develop a spiritual angst or guilt that grows inside them as if they have disappointed Christ. “Oh, I messed up. I did not share with them that God will punish sin. Forgive me God.”
We seem to easily get spiritual angst for others but I want to point out why. We get spiritual angst for others most often because we are seeing a sin or behavior or attitude in their lives that falls short of the glory of God. And we think this spiritual angst is our invitation to correct them; or to send some signal about their need to repent. When we do this, we so often end up elevating not the glory of God; but our own righteousness. For we also fall short of the glory of God; there are SO many areas in our lives where we also need to repent. So when we express the need for others to repent in the midst of our own failings, we often repel others away from us…and God…because “who are we to be talking about their sin in the midst of our own sin.” Dr. Gregory Boyd has written an excellent book titled “The Myth of a Christian Nation”. One chapter is titled “When Chief Sinners Become Moral Guardians”. The title alone says it all. Dr. Boyd powerfully explains how our role as “moral guardians” in the midst of our status as “chief sinners” does nothing more than elevates the perception of self-righteousness. Others are repelled by us…and away from God. He quotes a survey in which those outside the church ranked evangelical Christians near the bottom of people they most respect in the world; we were one notch above prostitutes. Our reputation precedes us…In light of this, it is a much more holistic strategy to realize that repentance from sin (turning away from sin) will ONLY be attractive to people if they are also turning toward something positive…or rather, Someone loving. This is where we can integrate the meaning of repentance into God’s full nature of truth and love; this is where Dr. Bailey’s definition of repentance as “the acceptance of being found” comes into play; and this is where our Christian kindness comes into play.
Listen carefully: we do not water down God’s Truth when we gently, compassionately, lovingly and patiently share with others the God of love who dwells inside us. In fact, we may water up the Gospel! For when others can see that there is a relationship with God that awaits them – a relationship with a God who loves them WITHOUT CONDITION – that is the power of the Gospel that brings forth the fruit of repentance…the fruit of letting go of our sin…the fruit of surrendering our whole lives to God….the fruit of “accepting being found by God.”Every person is different. Yet I would venture to say that every person needs to first know God unconditionally loves them before they will unconditionally surrender their lives to Him; and turn from sin to Him. Thus, Christian kindness is not powerless and destined to water down to Gospel to a cheap grace without repentance. Rather, true Christian kindness is nothing less than God’s kindness – that according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 2:1-4 – “leads us to repentance.”Click here to easily navigate to Part 4.
NOTE: Please see Parts 1-2 of this series first.