I have a question. One sort of spawned from reading this article by Beth Woolsey entitled, “3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin.”
And that question is: why do we think we can stop other people from sinning, when we can’t even stop OURSELVES from sinning??
Ms. Woolsey takes us back to the story of the woman about to be stoned to death by the Pharisees, where Jesus says by way of condemnation of their methods,”… let any of you who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
Thing is, Jesus WAS without sin. Sinless. And so by his own definition he was completely qualified to stone the woman; to throw the first stone. And yet he didn’t. He showed her grace, and forgiveness and an acceptance the likes of which she had probably never experienced from anyone else. I think it’s pretty safe to say he had an impact on her life. And probably made a friend that day as well.
How much more then are we — as full and complete sinners who are living our lives an eternity away from the perfection of Christ — uniquely UNQUALIFIED to throw that first stone?! How DARE we stand in judgement of others? That is a role reserved exclusively for the person of God!
Our ministries should not be focused on stopping people from sinning. We can’t do it. We aren’t qualified! You know who is? God. The Holy Spirit. The changer of hearts and redeemer of lives. Not us. Not the pastors, not the deacons, not the lay preachers or Bible study leaders.
We. Can’t. Do. It.
What can we do? We can work to bring people into relationship with Christ. And then let Him take it from there.
Can I cure an alcoholic? Nope. Can I get a drug user to stop using? Nope. Can I get a compulsive, self-destructive gambler to push back from the blackjack table? I can try. I can exhort, beg, whine, condemn, yell, plead. But you know what? Until he wants to stop, until God works that miracle in his heart…it isn’t going to happen. I can’t shame him, I can’t bully him, and I can’t guilt him into changing.
What I can do is tell him that there’s a way. A way out. A way up. I can SHOW him that way, by the way I live my life, by the manifest witness of what God has done in my own life. AND THAT’S IT.
A great deal of what we know today as “church,” we got from Paul, not from Jesus. Paul and the disciples were the Tiger Team, the Hellfighters. They were sent out to make disciples of all nations, and Paul as the designated honcho oversaw the process. He was the project manager.
The thing is, his letters to the churches? They are, without exception, exhortations to hold fast and to hold true to the path they have chosen – to people WHO ARE ALREADY BELIEVERS!
To the people who aren’t? To the gambler or the housewife, to the alcoholic or the bus driver, to the thief or the school teacher? It’s a different story.
The unsaved are NOT BOUND BY DOCTRINE! It. Does. Not. Apply. To. Them.
And therefore, we cannot hold them accountable to it!! It is utterly meaningless for me to shake a Bible in the face of “a sinner,” spout a bunch of religious rhetoric and hope to have any impact. Other than perhaps inspiring hostility and resentment. That’s not the way we reach the lost.
As a matter of fact, the very act of attempting to put myself in a separate camp than ”those sinners” is in itself an act of sin!
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:1-6
The law (the scriptures) is there to bring an awareness of sin. It’s there to help you understand how and why we need a savior. To get a glimpse of the eternal consequences for breaking the rules. If I know that the speed limit is 55, and I go 70, when I get a ticket I can’t say, “well I didn’t KNOW!”
But you know what else? It’s not my job to write tickets. It’s not my job to enforce the law. I can’t make that guy in the lane next to me drive any slower by shaking a fist or showing a finger. As a matter of fact, I may very well push the person to drive faster just to show me I’m not the boss of him or her, leading him into further violation of the law! And you know what else? I’ve sinned by even trying.
Matthew 5:22 says, “22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Not very kind and gentle words, are they? I can’t stop that guy from speeding, but I can guard my own heart. Instead of getting angry and cussing, I can step back, say a prayer for him or her, and let God do the work on that other person in His way and in His timing.
Because it IS His job…..not mine. Not my job. Not my role.
My job is to love, to try and understand, and more importantly to live every day with the understanding that if God took the same attitude towards me that I am taking towards those over whom I am so quick to stand in judgement, I’d be in some deep doo-doo for sure!
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Challenging words. Especially during rush hour.