What do these two verses have in common? Well most importantly they are the words spoken by Jesus. Second they are relational in how we, specifically Christians, are to view others – love not judge. Sounds simple enough. Yet why in the world is it so difficult? Have we gotten too caught up in “religion” and the Sunday country club routine? Are we going through the motions, putting our game faces on, and speaking the words and reciting scripture but not truly living it out or believing it with our whole being? Why do others view so many of us as hypocrites? You may not have put that much thought into it or may not even care, but just hang in with me for a bit.
If you really sat down and got still with God and asked Him to show you if you are just another Pharisee playing by the rules but whose heart wasn’t in it or if you are the tax collector (whose profession rendered him loathed in his society) completely humbled before Him, what would He show you? The Pharisee saw himself as righteous and thanked God he wasn’t like the “other sinners.” He was proud. He said “at least I’m not doing...and names several “big sins.” The tax collector admitted his sin, was ashamed, and asked God to have mercy on him. At the end of the parable Jesus says, “for all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” I know many of us have heard this parable numerous times and probably from several pastors. But beyond hearing it, how well have we actually applied it in our own lives? Or are we still comparing our “respectable sins” to others who carry around those “big sins?” Are we, just like the Pharisee, saying “at least I’m not one of ‘them’?”
In a world seemingly spiraling out of control with war, fighting, and cultural crises, we (Christians) should wonder why church pews are not brimming over every Sunday. And many are in fact leaving the church instead of drawing closer to a God who could bring them peace and comfort in such dire times. Is it always because of “them” and their own personal choices? And is it just up to the pastor to herd people through the doors? Absolutely not. I’m not a scholar, don’t claim to be and not necessarily striving to be. But what I am is convicted. Broken. Humbled. I’m aware of my own sins and need for grace every single day. I’m a sinner just like “them.” In fact, I only know of one who has never been or will ever be and that is Jesus Christ.
I've been deeply studying pride in a women’s Bible study group this summer and let me just say, WOW how it has hit home!
I love her matter of fact words. We must quit demonizing everything in a way that is displeasing to God, and instead live a life full of examples that will draw others closer to the Lord. You see there is no such thing to God as a "respectable sin" or a "big sin." Once we Christians quit trying to compare sins, quit trying to "play church" and get real it is THEN that we are actually fulfilling His commands to love one another and judge not. We can't just say it. We have to live it out. We have to admit that we are ALL sinners alike. Jesus does not compartmentalize sin. "Respectable sins" as we Christians typically don't label (because we are then admitting we are sinners too) are things like white lies, worry, stress, workaholic, fear, pride, overindulging, jealousy, anger, ungratefulness, judgementalism. We find these things more acceptable that the "big sins" like murder, stealing or sexual sins. We have condemned these things in an effort to make ourselves feel better about our own transgressions. May not want to admit it, but it's true. We compare. But Jesus doesn't. I'm not saying by any means that these "big sins" are to be looked over or not dealt with. But it doesn't mean we have to condemn others and make them feel unworthy of the same love and grace that God extends to us. This quote says it best to me.
You see it is God's job. Not ours. Our job is to live a life dedicated to Him so that others see Him in us. We are to love and extend the same grace to others that He has extended to us. If we ever want to win people over to Christ, we first have to examine our own hearts and motives. We have to remove any kind of mentality that somehow we deserve to be sitting in those church pews any more than if a murderer sat beside you. If their heart is truly seeking God, it is not up to us to judge them of their past. Do we have to like what they have done or agree with it? No. But we do have to love them. God will take care of the rest. So let Him. Just because we don't condemn them doesn't mean that we have condoned their sin. It just means that we are a Christian. We should rejoice that they want to know Christ and that heaven is gaining one more, not making them feel they are unworthy of love. When in all honesty, we are all unworthy. That's grace.
On the other hand, if you are not in alignment with Christian beliefs, and we (Christians) don't condone it, then don't automatically assume we are condemning you. I have many friends and family members that I'm unsure about their faith, based on their actions. But it hasn't stopped me from loving them, being their friend/family, or socializing with them. And just this week I had someone who belongs to an alternative community assume they were not allowed to participate in something because it was organized by a Christian. My response to them was yet it was based on Christian beliefs and yes we are not in agreement with that particular lifestyle based on those beliefs, but that in no way banned them from participating and they should never have to assume that. I'm not going to demonize others, but I can, in a loving way, explain my beliefs and at the same time extend love. I can't force it on anyone and I'm not going to go around like a "holy hitman," as a pastor and friend of mine calls it, telling them every way they are sinning. Instead, I'm going to focus my efforts on living the life called me to live by loving others, and pray that I can plant even the tiniest of seeds in others lives along the way and let God cultivate it. My role is to love, live as an example, and do things in practical and positive ways that make others want to know how they can do the same. I may have it all wrong, but as Lysa Terkerust said, "I'd rather stand before God knowing I loved others too much rather than regretting that I judged too harshly."
Our eyes must be fixed on Christ. When they are, our actions will pour out His love onto others. This doesn’t mean we have to condone. It just means we have to see everyone the same way that Christ does. No one is ever so far removed that He can’t restore them and bring glory and honor. After all, we are all sinners. A lady in my women’s Bible study group this past week said it best, “Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than you.” When we quit comparing “respectable sins” with “big sins,” then we just may see those church pews overflow with “them.”