Monday, April 3, 2006

Spreading Jesus and Not Just Religion

Ambassadors of Grace
Victoria Boyson

Jesus lived by a standard of love - a love for people - not a religious system. To Christ, the church was made of people, not of stone. To Him, it was not just a set of moral rules or laws. Even when people broke the law, He still chose to love instead of condemn. Indeed, He loved people more than the law. Christ died for people, not a set of moral standards. His goal was to save people, not to defend truth.

Compassion or Judgment
In John 8, when the throng of people approached Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, He saw a woman made of flesh and blood and His heart broke for her. He did not see so much the law that she broke and the punishment justice demanded. He saw a broken human being. His heart was moved with compassion for her, and at the expense of the principle, He loved her.

When faced with such a one, what flows from our hearts? Is it compassion or judgment? Do we see a human being or a broken principle?

Yes, this woman broke the law, but the Lord did not see her sin as great as the sin of the men who accused her. He saw their hardness of heart and their self-righteous judgment of her. He saw that they demanded truth and righteousness in others, while excusing the condition of their own hearts. He saw that they loved to judge more than they cared for the life of this woman. They wanted to be "right" even at the expense of her life.

People or Principle
How often do we drive people away from God with our legalistic attitude? We seek to perfect them before they even know the Perfecter. They are sinners - that is what they know to do. We are all sinners saved by grace and mercy, not judgment and condemnation. We have been shown mercy, therefore we are responsible to show mercy to others.

If Christ has shown us mercy, should we then, in turn, not grant the same mercy to others? Might we love them in spite of their sin? If we have been saved by grace, then that same grace is also available to them. But if we withhold that grace from them, then we are the guilty ones, not them. It is our sin the Lord sees, not theirs.

We who have been saved by grace are His ambassadors of grace, and others can see the love of Jesus through us. Moreover, we are the only Jesus some will ever see. If we withhold His grace and extend judgment to them instead of mercy, we have failed them and we have failed God!
Time and again the Lord extended mercy and cared for people over principle. They were brought into the kingdom of heaven by love not law. It is His kindness that brings people to repentance (see Romans 2:4).

He showed kindness to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:7-26, who had been married and remarried several times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. Do you see that Christ lived by a higher law, the law of love? Yes, she had sinned, but His love for her as a human being saved her from that sin. She and all her village were never the same again because His love transformed them.

People are human beings to Jesus and He truly loves them. He understands what drives them to do the things they do. He came to seek and to save those who are lost. Can we not do the same? Will we not love the lost? We cannot lose sight of what He loves. If we choose principle over people, we are no better than the self-righteous religious leaders of Christ's day. We will not destroy sin by destroying the sinner, we will only spread it and we will make ourselves worse in the eyes of the Lord than those we accuse.

Fighting for Truth
Well, you may say, "I have to fight for truth!" This is true, but if it is at the expense of others, then you serve truth and not Christ. You may feel that your fight is just and, in condemning others, you do God a favor. But that is what Paul thought when he persecuted and killed many of the first Christians. He honestly thought that he was fighting for God by defending the truth. But in his zeal, he found himself fighting against God (see Acts 9:1-5). He found himself on the side of darkness, not light.

Am I saying that we should not judge sin? No, but why do we hate sin? Do we hate it because we are "too religious" to bear it? Or do we hate sin because of what it does to the sinner? Sin brings with it its own judgment, that is why we should hate to see people caught in sin. Sin is an uncompromising, destructive force that will consume them. Therefore, we should strive to restore them to a life of righteousness with mercy and grace.

Most people know that they are sinning and do not need to be hit with our judgment. We need to rescue them, not with condemnation, but love, showing them there is forgiveness for their sin in a life filled with Jesus.

Should we never confront others when they are in sin? Yes we should, but there is a way to do that without poisoning them against the gospel. The word gospel means "good news." The good news is that they can find forgiveness in the cross. Christ has paid for their sins!

If Christ died to pay for our sins, why do we choose to make others pay for their sins with our accusations and judgment?

The principles that Jesus lived by were not what He loved. The word of God was precious to Him, but He loved people made in the image of God more than the law. If we are to be like Christ and walk as He walked, we must love what He loved and serve what He served. Christ served God by loving people, even to the point of death.

What are we fighting for? Are we fighting for principle or people? Do we serve truth at the expense of those whom the Lord loves, or do we love those He loved even at the expense of the principles we live by?

Truth Without Love
Do you think that Jesus got frustrated with the sins of those He loved? If He did, He never allowed His frustration to hinder His love for them. When we allow our frustration to impede our love for others, we may deliver the truth of God without the love needed for them to receive the correction we bring.

When frustration overpowers our love for others, we become dangerous, not only to others, but to ourselves. If we wound a child of God and cause damage to their spirit, we will be judged by God. "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble" (Luke 17:2).

Have you ever had anyone come to you with a word of correction only to deliver it in anger and frustration? What they are saying may be the truth, but it was not delivered in a spirit of grace and love. They made you feel like a failure, not worthy of God's love and forgiveness. And they may have made it difficult for you to receive His forgiveness. It feels as if opening your heart to the truth they brought you will also open up your heart to the hostility they have toward you. In an effort to defend yourself, you turn away from them and the truth they bring.

Unfortunately, because they have wounded you with the truth, they have made harder for you to receive proper correction from anyone else. Your heart has prepared a defense toward anyone who may try and correct you in that area. But friends, God will help you to tear down the defenses that you have erected because of the misuse of His truth. Open your heart to Him and allow Him to work in those areas that need His touch.

Precious Gifts
The children of God that He has put in our care and under our influence are very precious to Him. If we do not value and love them, they may leave our care and then become vulnerable to the enemy. Those who are new in the faith are like diamonds in the rough. We should value them, not for what they look like now, but for what they will look like in the future.

If we encounter someone who is struggling with sin, we should not judge them because of the sin we see, but fight for them and for their future. Indeed, that person is a gift to you. Love and appreciate them so they may experience the transforming power of God's grace at work in their life.

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Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture
quotations were taken from the NASB

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