On offending a God you don’t know…
New International Version (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life
Have you ever noticed that this scripture does NOT say : For God was so disgusted with their sin and tired of their mess that he sent Jesus down to condemn them for their sin and tell them he wouldn’t love them until they cleaned their act up? I have. And yet, it seems to me that this is largely the perverted gospel that we attempt to share with a broken world. “Hey you- you don’t know me and you don’t know the God that I serve- you know nothing about his love- but you know what- you’re offending him and you need to stop it.” How is it that we are surprised when this methodology fails? Why are we so obsessed with sin and behavior modification? Who made us the sin police? I thought Jesus told us to go into all the world and share the good news- not the condemned news?
Here’s my thought. What if we started with others where Jesus started with us? He came down to Earth. He humbled himself- put on the uniform of humanity and showed up right smack in the middle of our mess and starting loving us, and healing us and setting us free, RIGHT where we were. He came and got the fisherman while they were fishing. And what about the woman at the well? The one that society had marked as just another trashy Samaritan woman that we shouldn’t waste our time on. You know, the one that was always with a new guy and never quite gets her act together. Funny how the first words from his mouth weren’t about how much she sucked or about her sin. Oh, he knew about the sinful, broken and destructive behaviors but he wasn’t fixated on that. His wasn’t confused about the part where her sin did not define her. He saw her. Not the mess. The first thing he started sharing with her (after breaking all the social norms and choosing to see her and talk to her like a real person instead of a throw away) was that he can satisfy the longings of her heart. That he can give her living water, which satisfies her soul. You know the satisfaction and acceptance that she’s been chasing her whole life in all these empty relationships? He says he can fill that empty place inside of her and she won’t constantly be looking for some relationship to fill her. He speaks to the deep hurts and desires of her soul not her sin- he knows that sin is a symptom of a greater problem- she has not yet received his love, his hope, his healing, and his salvation. What if we showed up right smack in the middle of people’s messes and we still saw them and we treated them with dignity, like a real person? What if we let them know that we really saw them and valued them, and then we started helping them? What if we realized that sin is just a symptom of separation from God and we introduced them to a God who loves them so much that he sent his son to earth to die for them? And then what if we let that redemption, that love, that freedom of the cross set them free from sin. What if we watched God’s love heal them so deeply that the sin wasn’t even as issue anymore? What if we extended grace while they were in process and spoke the truth- truly in love- not in judgment and disgust? What if instead of shouting across Facebook “ hey punk, Jesus hates what you’re doing and I do too…” we took God’s approach and we introduced these people to a God who loves them and who knows that sin separates us from him and it breaks us? What if we introduced them to a God whose very hatred of sin is birthed from love? A God who hates sin because he loves us and he knows what it does to us, who knows that holiness leads to happiness and wholeness- and desperately longs for us to have that?
We, the church- were meant to be his hands and feet- not his firing squad. I am not talking about ignoring sin, or pretending that there is no call to holiness. But Jesus was sent to the earth on a rescue mission, motivated by love- what if we started there? So often I cringe when I think of what it must feel like to be outside of the mainstream church and have people telling you about how you are offending a God that you do not know. To me this would be like a total stranger stopping me in the mall and telling me that I am offending their third cousin in Guatemala that I’ve never met by the way that I walk. What? Who do you think you are? Why in the world would you expect me to care about that? How different would it be if that stranger truly cared about me and saw me as a person and began to share with me about how much their cousin loved me and wanted to know me? What if over time I came to know their cousin and love them and realized that they were a highly skilled physician who wanted me to know that the way I walked would eventually kill me- and out of their love for me- wanted to show me another way?
Sinners sin. Why are we surprised by this? Didn’t we sin when we were sinners? Don’t we still sin and live in constant need of his mercy and grace? What if we started extending some? What if we stopped being another voice that says you are not enough, you don’t have what it takes, you are a mess- and started being the voice that said. “You are loved. You are seen. You are known. You are valued. You are delighted in. You are the price for which Jesus went to the cross. You have a purpose. You bring something of great value to the world that no one else can.” What if we started agreeing with the voice of God in people’s lives instead of beating them up?
The time is now. Let love be the thing that you carry to the world. Let love be the thing that motivates you. Let love so fill you in your time with the Heavenly Father that it can’t help but spill out onto the rest of the world. Let’s stop trying to fix people, and leave the fixing to Jesus. Let’s just be the ones who make the introductions. Let’s choose to represent him in a way that makes others anxious to meet him- not run in the other direction.
Jesus, fill us with your love today. Transform us with your love. Give us eyes to see ourselves and others as you do. Thank you for the mercy and grace that you extend to us while we are in process. Help us to extend it to others. We lay down all pride and all superiority. We are nothing without you and we are humbled and honored to be able to love others as you have loved us. Empower us to share your love with boldness and with steadfastness. We lay down our expectations and agendas and we pick up yours. Thank you for coming for us, right in the middle of our mess. Thank you for seeing the treasure in us and not the mess, help us to see the same in others. We love you. In Jesus name, Amen