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.

Color 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…

Skyping Fellowship – An Invitation

This wonderful community – this Church Set Free blogging community – this online church community I belong to has given me a sense of true fellowship. A few of us Skype every other week to stay in touch, to share our weeks, to talk about our relationship with our Lord, and to look into each others’ eyes. We laugh, we learn, and simply through seeing the facing there, we encourage each other, uplift each other for the next several days.

Two members of our community have extended an invitation – quoted directly below – and I earnestly hope you will accept. Please reply to either Paul or Don, as they have extended the invitation. I have already accepted. I hope to see you there!

Paul’s invitation

Blogging brought me a bunch of wonderful people. Blogging also extended my comfort zones hugely! Blogging has changed me. Because God makes no distinction, that I can see, where we gather in His name.

Church is still often “the building”, and “the services”, and “the congregation”, and the turning up and signing-in. Nothing wrong with that…

Where does “God and you” transport to other relationships, other communities, other formats and settings?

Blogging, for me, became community became Skype fellowship. First one other blogger, then another, then a local minister, then some more bloggers. The odd thing I have found in all cases is this:

When I have known someone first through their blog (and they mine) – I know I can trust them – I know I feel safe with them. I know we have something really important in common – something that will transcend appearance, tone of voice, accent, way of speaking – all that “stuff”

What do you get?  A lot of love with others from across the world. In a group where denomination doesn’t even register. Where personal preferences only get in the way if you let them (and that is true wherever and however you share with others). But where the “payback” is truly massive!  Where the focus is on God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and relationship – real relationship – safe relationship.

Skype fellowship.

Reply to Paul by leaving a comment at his place.

 

Don’s Invitation

In his great post of earlier today, paulfg (Just Me Being Curious) commented on something I posted recently here on The Life Project, an idea that I’ve been kicking around to increase the level of community among Christian bloggers.

In the original post, I mentioned putting together a group of bloggers via Skype as a fellowship or accountability group or a small group study… or all of the above. Before I ended the post, I threw out an idea that came to me as I wrote: Anybody interests in a small study of Mark? And Susan Irene Fox spoke up with a “Yes” reply.

In Paul’s post today, two others quickly said yes to being in a group conversation, and after seeing that, I thought it was time to send out a little invitation:

Hey everyone, do any of you Skype?

Would any of you be interested in becoming part of a small group on Skype, periodically for fellowship, conversation, Bible study, or…? (Suggestions very welcome).

Please consider yourself invited!

Let me know, by leaving a comment and please let me know your time zone.

By the way, if you have never used Skype before, it is free, it is easy and all you need is a computer, internet connection, and an inexpensive web cam and microphone (mine together cost about $25 total.) I really hope to hear from you!

Reply to Don by leaving a comment at his place.