I am amazed that the Church has survived for so long. We have fought against each other. We have killed each other. We have other people that want to kill us. When we gain power in the political process we become oppressors. We have people who hold up signs telling other people that God hates them, who rejoice when certain types of people suffer, and claim some kind of moral high ground when they do. The Church has been a festering cesspool of sinners since the day of its founding and I can only claim to be one of those. Yet, the Church survives and, at times, even thrives. In the midst of all those who continue to live ungodly lives we see lives changed as people come to know the Lord. As we look inside of ourselves as a Church we often swing to one of two extremes: 1) the Church is made up of sinners who are no different from society, and 2) God changes the lives of ordinary people by His grace.
The truth is that as much as we want to claim that second extreme, we too often see the first one. The Church is a mixed up mess of people who seem to exhibit both extremes at some point in their lives. If we are truly following Christ, though, we will move towards the extreme of having our lives changed by the grace of God. If we do that, we will see more opportunities to share His love and grace with others. Paul reminded the Colossian Church that there was a way to share our faith without being obnoxious. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)
Too often when we see people that are different from us we want to focus on all the things that they do that are “wrong.” We don’t like their hair style; we don’t like their language; they eat or drink the wrong things…need I go on? We criticize their lifestyles from the moment we see them and then tell them disdainfully, “You need Jesus.” I can’t help but wonder that they would look at us and say something like, “Man, if Jesus made you that critical, I don’t want anything to do with Him.” Jesus reserved His criticism when He walked among us. To those who were outsiders with the weird hair and piercings; to those who might not use the right words, or ate and drank the wrong things Jesus showed grace and mercy. To the woman caught in adultery He showed compassion. He reserved His criticism and His judgment for those who seemed to think that God must be grateful to have them on His team. The scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the money changers felt His wrath whether it was emotional or physical. If we truly want to be like Jesus we won’t spend time holding signs telling people that God hates them, we’ll develop relationships with people and speak to them with grace and mercy.
The person who is separated from God doesn’t need my condemnation. If they haven’t forced it too far beneath the surface, they probably condemn themselves far more than I ever could. They need to hear of God’s grace and forgiveness. Even people who claim to know God are more likely to be drawn closer to God by hearing of His grace and mercy than by hearing words of condemnation. I challenge you to speak grace today. Let those you come into contact with today experience the grace of God as you speak to them, whether they deserve it or not. God knows I didn’t deserve His grace.
Lord, I try to represent You to others and we fail miserably because I focus on the sins of those I meet. I forget that You love each and every person in spite of their sin. Remind me that the person I want to criticize is one You died for on the cross and let me love them as You did; let me show them Your grace and mercy.