NOTE: Please see Parts 1-3 of this series first.
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.”
In light of this, what we find is that we often operate with spiritual planks that blind our eyes from seeing others the way God sees them. We see their sin. We see their need to repent. God sees His deep love for them; a love so deep that it is willing to patiently walk with and wait upon them; a love that diligently and passionately pursues them; a love that creatively invests in pathways back to the heart of Christ; a love that humbly expresses the person of Jesus Christ; and a love that is capable of winning others…drawing others…enabling others to come home to Jesus at the Cross in full-life surrender.
We play the role of Pharisee when we just see others according to their sin or their behavior or their lifestyle. When we think that all others need to do is repent, we are missing something. What they really need is a deep, abiding, secure relationship with the God who loves them unconditionally. Did not Jesus come to us while WE were still yet sinners? Do we have enough confidence in our GREAT GOD that He loves THEM as much as He loves US? If we trust God and have faith in God based upon our knowledge of His full character, then we surely can be confident that just as He came to US…He is coming and will continue to come to THEM. So why do we let this spiritual angst prevent us from offering this God of love to others; why do we so often let that spiritual angst convince us that we need to pour salt all over others destroying any semblance of Christian Kindness? We may think we want to do this because we are Biblically minded Christians; yet I fear that oftentimes we do this because we are intrinsically judging others. We judge others and want to fix them. Thus, we feel a sense of angst and urgency to tell them the truth and we really start to pour it on. Soon, the sheep are scattering! We ask ourselves, “What happened? What did we do?” And the answer is that we did not gently lead; the sheep became frightened and ran off. Our kindness collapsed alright…not into compromise…but into condemnation. So it can be said that part of our role in exhibiting Christian kindness is to reflect the character of Christ; Christ reveals His character as patient, long-suffering, tender, merciful and loving. Make no mistake – gentle Jesus is one day going to return to this world and He will be anything but gentle; He will be riding a white horse as He breaks into this world to judge this world of sin. Yet until that day, there is an open invitation to ALL sinners and ALL unbelievers. Whether you are an unrepentant believer or an unbeliever, Christ does not condemn you; He invites you. He says, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest for your souls.” Why am I so intrigued by our conceptions of Christian Kindness? I guess it is because I so often see God’s endless mercy claimed for ourselves; even as we so easily extend God’s judgment to others.
So how does this play out? It plays out in the assumptions we make about what is best for someone who is venturing away from God into a life of sin. For some sins like remarriage after divorce, we no longer even really call that sin. For other sins like internet pornography, we tend to say we have a “problem” or a “struggle”. For other sins like gossip, we kind of laugh about the words that spill out of our mouths and say “I don’t mean to gossip, but…” For other sins like lust, we tend to say, “Well, at least it’s not adultery.” The bottom line is this…MANY of us inside the church have committed these sins! Over and over again! And there are a lot of us! So…we tend to kind of claim God’s endless mercies for our endless stream of sins. Yet for some sins…like gay relationships…we start bringing up verses about “expelling the immoral brother.” And we do so very quickly. We accommodate our own sins which we call “struggles” or “problems”; even as we so quickly condemn certain sins and certain sinners. This is dangerous for this is the spirit of Pharisee. We must be careful not to play the role of Pharisee… It is very strange. I never hear anyone anywhere in the church talking about “expelling the immoral brother.” But show me a 19 year old kid who is starting down a prodigal journey of exploring his emerging homosexuality and many parents and pastors and Christian peers tune all of their spiritual angst into a single Bible verse about “expelling the immoral brother.”
This 19-year old boy’s father statistically has a good chance of being one of the many evangelical men who struggle with internet porn but because he has remorse and confesses it as sin; he is forgiven. I have no disagreement with that. Yet I do wonder: if we keep going back to porn time after time after time after time – and even though we repent after each time – at some point our life of immorality looks just as bad as – most likely worse than! – our 19-year old homosexual son. Yet we never consider expelling ourselves for our own immorality. And now internet pornography is so widespread in the church – like divorce – that we would be expelling 25-40% of the church if we really were to apply this verse equally among all sinner groups. Repentance is absolutely necessary – make no mistake about it. Yet should we not be more worried about ensuring that WE repent of OUR sins; and stop worrying so much about others repenting of their sins. As born again believers, we should most definitely turn from our own sins and get help for the addictions we suffer from. But with regard to the 19-year old prodigal who is just starting out in really owning his own spiritual journey, should not we apply a little bit of patience, mercy and long-suffering; the very patience and mercy God extended to us!
Should we not allow him to have his own journey instead of so easily finding our solution in “expelling the immoral brother”? IF we are going to expel people, we better really get prepared for a backlash. You see, we often look at homosexual sinners and say “Why are they so mad at us? Why do they think we are so hateful?” Yet if we treated the rest of sinners the way we treat them, we might ALL start to shout “You hatemongers!” In other words, we might finally feel the pain of judgment that we so easily inflict upon others.This is why it is important to consider – what “planks” are in our eyes that possibly leave us a bit blinded in regard to our own sins; even as we so clearly see the sins of others. It might be that “fixing” them is not our first agenda item; but rather we should first “remove the planks that blind us.” Then, we might see more clearly to help our brother.Join me for the final post in this series next time…Click here to easily navigate to Part 5.