Anyone who claims to be a Christian must try, in all sincerity, to follow what Jesus taught. If we claim to belong to God, but don’t obey Him, then we don’t have a clue about what He taught. But knowing and understanding that teaching is far, far away from living it.
The message of the gospel is hard. It goes against our human nature to be right, to protect what is ours, and to fight against what we think is bad. The gospel of Jesus is the opposite of our natural reactions and choices. If our buttons are pushed, and we respond in anger, it’s hard to bless. But He never said it would be easy.
But we continue to call ourselves Christian, even when we do not obey Him. And the scary part is, we think we are right. We righteously defend God against a culture that has no respect for Him at all, but we do it in a way that dishonors God. He doesn’t need that kind of help.
For instance, what would you do if your pastor, someone loved by the church and the community, suddenly announced that he was gay? I can see hackles rising up from here. For some reason, he can be charged with tax evasion, have an affair with another woman, or get into a fist fight with a board member, and he will not be as vilified as admitting to being gay.
How do you respond to that? The church’s first reaction is to demand repentance. What if that doesn’t happen? Then demand that he go into intensive counseling. What if that doesn’t help? He will be banished into outer darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the church will feel justified in doing so. The man will be left alone and broken with no possible way to be healed or helped because if his choices.
I’m not sure that’s what Jesus would do. When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Him, He wrote in the sand until all the men who demanded her stoning went away. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (Jhn 8:9-11)
Jesus did not condemn her! He told her to stop sinning, but He did not judge her or cast her out. She felt His compassion because He actually had compassion for her. We are to be known by our love, not our judgment. The pastor who can’t get himself out of a gay lifestyle needs to be loved. That does not mean agreeing with his lifestyle, it means loving him. How will he be influenced to come back into the church if he has been vilified? But if he has been loved the whole time by people who have compassion for him, he has the means to see the way home.
The gospel of peace is hard to follow. We have to confront our own judgment and evil responses. We have to be willing to be changed, to be renewed in our minds, so we think, feel, and respond in the love of God, despite how deeply we are offended.
And if we have responded badly to offense, we are responsible for repenting. Carrying judgment against anyone is not our job and it is sin. Our job is to love. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (Mat 5:43-45)
Pick an offense —religious, political, or martial— and allow God to change your heart so you can respond with Him, not against Him. When your response is anger, hatred, or disgust, then you are as far from the kingdom of God as the person you have targeted to judge.
Repent. Ask God to fill you with His love, kindness, goodness, and mercy. Ask Him for wisdom to know how to respond. Ask for revelation to know how to be the door to compassion and life to those who are losing their way.
Don’t defend God by choosing not to love. Now you need rescuing too.