Grace and Sin

Love and Judgment

©New Testament 3 Productions; Dining with sinners at Matthew's house

©New Testament 3 Productions; Dining with sinners at Matthew’s house

I have a friend who is perplexed about the emphasis “we” Christians place on sin.

Well, I admit, sometimes I’m perplexed, too.

Sin before Christ is accepted

(Is our mission to call out sin?)

I often read or hear the following rationalizations from evangelizing Christians:

“If we don’t point out their sin, they might be damned to an eternal hell.”

“If we don’t judge them, we’re not doing our job as Christians.”

“We need to take a moral stand in this immoral world without values.”

Jesus tells us not to judge; plain and simple. And Jesus only called out one group of people: the Pharisees. Yet, he also formed individual relationships with at least two of them – Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Instead of calling out sinners, Jesus dined with them. Sharing a meal first century Jewish culture meant acceptance at a deep level.

 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 (Luke 6:37)”

“If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47)

The thing is, no one will listen unless they feel safe, unless they feel loved. And really, it’s never a matter of “they” or “them,” but of he or she; individuals with whom we take the time to establish authentic and loving relationships. Individuals with whom we take the time to learn history and struggles and hurt and pain. Jesus loved first, drew individuals to His heart, creating the desire to follow Him.

If the death of his Son restored our relationship with God while we were still his enemies, we are even more certain that, because of this restored relationship, the life of his Son will save us. (Romans 5:10 GW emphasis mine)

Sin after Christ is accepted

(Are sinners separated from God?)

Christ died on the cross; He took our sins and buried them forever. More important, His resurrection brought us back into a redemptive relationship with our Father. He has restored us into our Father’s arms.

Sin can lead us to an earthly hell and make us “feel” separated from God. But,

All of this is a gift from our Creator God, who has pursued us and brought us into a restored and healthy relationship with Him through Jesus. And He has given us the same mission, the ministry of reconciliation, to bring others back to Him. It is central to our good news that God was in Christ making things right between Himself and the world. This means He does not hold their sins against them. But it also means He charges us to proclaim the message that heals and restores our broken relationships with God and each other. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 The Voice)

If God does not hold our sins against us anymore, why do we? How can our sin separate us from God if Jesus took them away, once and for all?

 

©2011YourPerspektive

©2011YourPerspektive

When we focus on sin, we miss the point of the Good News. Rather than fixating on sin, shouldn’t we stress God’s love, His grace and His mercy? Shouldn’t we extend an invitation? Invite someone in and get to know him? Welcome someone to dinner and make it safe for her talk?

If it’s true once people know the love of Christ they desire to transform their lives; if it’s true lives can only transform through a relationship with Christ, then we must love first. For if we judge and expect people to repent before they feel the love of Christ, we task them with an impossible burden, just as the Pharisees did to the people of their day.

It circumvents Christ, ignoring the cross and undermining the Gospel of Jesus.

What will separate us from the love Christ has for us? Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture. As Scripture says:

“We are being killed all day long because of you.
We are thought of as sheep to be slaughtered.”

The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties.  I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation. (Romans 8:35-39, MSG)

Thank you, Mel Wild and Little Monk for the inspiration for this blog. Pebbles and ripples…

19 comments

  1. Wow…I think this is very insightful and enlightening! Thanks for sharing and blessing us, Susan!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read. 🙂

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  2. Great comments above. Knowing our own sin and sins is, I believe, the most important work we do as followers of Jesus Christ. It gives us not just compassion for others, but a point of entry into the lives of those who struggle as we do. Not the lives of anyone or everyone, but those with whom we can relate, and to whom we can offer hospitality (a safe space), getting to know them by letting them know about us and being interested in them–not just their ‘problem’ or ‘sin.’ Our changed lives are our best witness.

    Confrontation is important when leaders publicly and egregiously bring shame on Christ’s name, or when someone is clearly bad-mouthing others (for example). Even there, though, speaking out doesn’t mean shaming anyone. It means creating a safe, relationally-grounded and boundaried environment that allows for frank dialogue and clear choices. Often the isolation of leaders is part of the problem–something for which we can take some responsibility. That’s why I love the open table image and relational approach visible in the image at the top. The two-way street must be there!

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Susan!
    Elouise

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    1. ” creating a safe, relationally-grounded and boundaried environment that allows for frank dialogue and clear choices.” Absolutely.

      Thank you so much for you thoughtful comments, Elouise. Always a pleasure to have you add your insights here.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m old enough to where I like things nice and simple and, to me, ‘sin’ is simply ‘separation from God.’ Or maybe that is the Big-S Sin and the rest are little-s sins. To my way of thinking, once the Big-S Sin is resolved and we are reconciled to God, the little-s sins just become bad habits that can complicate our lives. Once we are reconciled to God, the whole sin issue is irrelevant.

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    1. Yes, Kitsy, what you said at the end. And those bad habits are ways we get off course. The Spirit is with us to help us get back on course. It’s like navigating the ocean. He is always with us, helping us out even when we don’t realize it.

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  4. Amen! I always remind myself and even others about the statement Jesus made. “If you are without sin, through the first stone” and “God sent not his Son into the world to condem the world, but that the world through Him might be saved”.

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    1. Yes, Bill. It perplexes me why we take on that role. Perhaps the human desire in us to find “more sin” in other people. I find it sad, and I think it takes us away from the work God intended us to do – reconcile all people to Himself.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Susan.
    I think you’d agree that it’s hard to win converts to Christ by just condemning ungodly behavior (that didn’t work on me, it only pushed me further away). On the other hand, I think we need to do a better job of holding followers of Christ to a higher standard.

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    1. I absolutely agree with you, Bill. We do so much harm when we condemn whole groups of people and call them out as sinners. Jesus never did that. There are so many examples for us to follow where he had fellowship with them. That is the power of love and grace. That is what turns the hearts, minds of people. And behavior doesn’t change until hearts and minds are transformed through the love and grace of Christ.

      Thank you so very much for your comments here.

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  6. One of my most favorite passages. When I grasped what I was reading I cried tears of joy.

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    1. Oh, Susan, thank you so much. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What hope.wonderful encouragement for all of us. Thanks Susan

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    1. You are most welcome, Tom.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, bless you, Vincent. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And many Blessings to you too Susan!

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  8. I agree to an extent with what you say. The focus should be on the love and mercy of Christ, not on the sin of man per se. Yet, I’ll still say an eye should be on that ‘sin’, lest we take God’s love and mercy for granted. His love and mercy is endless to whoso wants and desires it. But, if someone doesn’t know this, he/she may become estranged to it for want of knowledge, reason why, I think, an eye should be on the ‘sin’.
    After Jesus dined with them (and all it implies), their lives were transformed. No mention is made of that they returned to their old self. His presence with them, and love for them did not leave them indifferent. They didn’t puff up because they had the Master with them. They acknowledged how unworthy they were to receive him, and readjusted accordingly. That’s the essence.
    Unfortunately today, we ‘Christians’ get comfortable in our old life that sent Christ to the cross, because we know the Master is still there for us. After all, isn’t it said that His mercy endures forever?
    Talking about the sin doesn’t mean one is not a sinner. As I endeavor to point out the speck in my brother’s eye, I should also check the log in mine; else someone else points it out. I think that’s also part of being my brother’s keeper. When Jesus spoke about us not pointing out the speck in another’s eye, it was because those ones failed to know they have (Or can have) a log in theirs. They considered themselves saints. But as it is, all have sinned. And also, Jesus in that passage spoke condemning those who judged with malevolent instructions.
    As you clearly point in your post, we should act in love, because in this way, we draw people closer to God and to us, and they can better understand how God expects them to live. Christ himself says in John 7:24 – “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” He lays the groundwork for us to watch out for our brothers and for ourselves.
    Mercy and grace come above sin. That’s very very true. Albeit, the same word of God tells us that this grace is not only about being saved undeservedly, but is a teaching on how to live in the present times, soberly, righteously and godly. (Titus 2:11)
    Paul also asks, do we continue to sin, that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1) Far be it from us to do that. In the last part of verse 4, he says “…even so we also should walk in newness of life”. The rest of Romans 6 talks of us dying to sin, and being raised up with Christ and living accordingly.
    So, yes, the focus is on Christ’s love and grace and mercy, albeit, not oblivious of the fact that we got to live right according to Christ. We have to know this. Ignorance is not bliss!

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    1. Thank you for feeling free enough to comment here. May I respond to a few of the things you wrote?

      In all Jesus’ words about judgment, it is to admonish us to not judge. We can twist his words and use it as an an excuse – (“Do not judge by outward appearance. When you judge, search for what is right and just.” John 7:24) or we can see rightly he is telling us not to judge at all, but look beyond the surface and get to know an individual, get past our assumptions about them. But most of all, he is telling us look at our selves, judge our own hearts and minds, and ensure we are living righteously and following Jesus’ steps. Our ignorance comes when we decide someone else’s sin is worse than our own, and deny our own gossip, white lies, anger, etc…

      As Jesus said, “Whoever has not sinned, cast the first stone.”

      I don’t know about you, but I am not without sin, even those little ones, which is why I don’t ever feel qualified to place judgment on another’s sin.

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