Back to Basics, Part 4

Continued from Back to Basics, Part 3

(see end note)

(see end note)

Following Jesus is all or nothing. He tells us to follow his commands – all of them, not just the few we feel comfortable following.

“My experience of many Christians is that we have it backwards. We want the power to point out sin; we want the credit and glory for having saved them when it is not up to us.”

In every case I read in the Gospels, Jesus loved first (as he did for us), offered grace first, then gave outcasts and sinners (like us all) the space to recognize and acknowledge their own sins, come to him and allow him to transform their lives. We don’t give people that space; we don’t give them a chance to own their own fallenness. And changing behavior isn’t transformation; it’s a band-aid. Transformation changes hearts and minds.

As I listen in church, as I talk in person to fellow believers, as I read blogs across the Western World, my experience of many Christians is that we have it backwards. We want the power to point out sin to not only to individuals but entire groups of people. We want the credit and glory for having saved them when it is not up to us.

So, how do we follow the tasks to reconcile people to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-19), and how do we make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)?

Our job, through God’s love, is to open the door for people to reach out to Jesus and for him to hand them the opportunity for His Love and Grace. That is when Transformation occurs. That is when the “Aha” moments happen. That is when the thirst for discipleship transpires.

When we attempt to argue or accuse people into Christ, all we do is cause them to be offended, to turn their backs on God. That isn’t what we want and it certainly isn’t what God wants. If our mission is to reconcile everyone to God and what we’ve been doing isn’t working, we must change our methods.

“The elder son…cannot see the difference between restorative justice and punitive justice. And restorative justice is the Good News.”

In the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus begins with, “A man had two sons.” Even though many of our Bibles call it the Parable of the Lost or Prodigal Son, it is really The Parable of the Lost Sons. This parable is not simply about the younger son who was lost to sin.

It is also about the elder son who stood to inherit twice what his younger brother took as his inheritance. The elder brother was lost to legalism, the son who is so focused on the sin of his brother his anger will not allow him to offer grace or accept the double treasure of his Father’s grace and love which has always been there for him. He cannot see the difference between restorative justice and punitive justice. And restorative justice is the Good News.

As we love unconditionally, it doesn’t mean we condone sin, just as forgiveness doesn’t mean we accept bad behavior. But trying to teach someone about acceptable behavior before you accept and love who they are regardless of their behavior will fall upon deaf ears. It will erect a wall that will never allow them to feel safe enough to let down their guard.

Loving unconditionally means we communicate without disgracing or treating people without dignity. It means we create a safe space for them to discover the love, mercy and grace of God. It means we allow them to choose, through that saving grace, to repent in their own time because God’s love and His Spirit moves them to do so. It means we don’t stand in their way or erect barriers of any kind, otherwise we become stumbling blocks.

The bottom line is this: we can either continue to push ahead, focus on someone’s sin, and attempt to teach through condemnation and accusation, or we can build authentic relationships, safety and trust through the wisdom and patience of the Holy Spirit, through the compassion of Jesus, and through the love and grace of our Father.

 

The Tree of Life, a nearly 10-foot tall sculpture, was created by four Mozambican artists: Cristovao Canhavato (Kester), Hilario Nhatugueja, Fiel dos Santos and Adelino Serafim Maté. The sculpture was made entirely from weapons that were the remains of the 17-year civil war that killed one million people and only ended when the Soviet Union collapsed and funding ended. This piece was part of the Transforming Arms Into Tools project which employs former child soldiers to dismantle weapons, which has dismantled more than 600,000 weapons in nine years.

 

20 comments

  1. […] We have two missions, if we choose to accept them, which I wrote about in Back to Basics 3 and Part 4. […]

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  2. […] We have two missions, which I wrote about in Back to Basics 3 and Part 4. […]

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  3. […] Continued tomorrow in Back to Basics, Part 4. […]

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  4. Yes! Great writing Susan. I believe this to be true and it has taken me a long time to get here. I am encouraged and reminded to love. You and your words inspire me!

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    1. Thank you, Mike, but I can only take a small part of the credit. Not really my words, you know? Just trying in my own way to express His words the way the Spirit moves me to. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dearest Susan, what a gloriously honest and Loving post!! Every word I felt “Christ” and as I read I felt awe of your depth of ability to express the Truth regarding the Teachings of Jesus. I agree with you that most Christians are so busy pointing accusatory fingers at others that what they are doing is pushing them even further away from the Light and Love of God. It is how we live our lives that is so important and how we treat others, with Love and without condemnation. Beautfiul beautiful post, dear friend. Your shining example is a JOY to behold. Bless you!!! ❤

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    1. Oh, Amy, thank you so much. My desire is to shine His grace and love and have those who need and desire Him allow that grace and love to warm their hearts and eventually transform their lives.

      So nice to hear from you! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve had one crisis after another for the past few months, Susan, so have really not been “here” at WP much. As for you shining, you are exquisite!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

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  6. The True Light! · ·

    This is so very true. We are to be examples to the life in Christ and be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have. When we do get someone who wants to know more about Jesus, we need to be ready to teach from the word, (not judge)…

    Good post, Susan. Enjoy your weekend!

    Steve

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    1. Thanks, Steve. I hope this all makes sense to you after reading the whole series. I truly believe this is the way to reach people, whether non-believers or those believers who have lost sight of the right path.

      Love you, my brother.

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      1. The True Light! · ·

        Yes it does make a lot of sense and is full of love and understanding and acceptance. My point has always been that Jesus may find us in sin, but won’t leave us there. He wants us to win our brothers and sisters over if we can and He helps us do that as He wills.

        It’s just that we win people’s hearts for Christ in different ways and sometimes that may take a while. It’s between the person and God…

        Take care and enjoy your weekend, Susan.

        God’s love to you, Susan.
        Steve

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      2. And also to you Steve.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. What an important topic. Susan. Amen! I commented on the “Church Set Free” site. Great series!
    Blessings.

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    1. Thanks, Mel, and I responded in kind. ❤

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  8. Right on target Susan. We need Christian brothers and sisters that will intercede for each other and the lost. Not condemn them. Pray for them when they offend us. Right on target.

    Blessings Tom

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    1. Thank you for this encouragement and support, Tom. I appreciate it more than you know.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So very true Susan.

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  10. You have it so right. Jesus tells us it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement. Too often we make this our job and mess things all up. If we would learn to just love and sow the fruit of the spirit in other people’s lives, many more would come to Christ.l

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    1. Thank you for this, Pete. If only more people would allow the Spirit to open their eyes and ears to this very truth, you are right, “many more would come to Christ.”

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