When thinking about truth-telling and considering other people’s sin, failings and misgivings, I am still reminded of Paul’s words:
“Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4)
The kindness, restraint and patience of God is what leads us to repentance…his kindness not his condemnation…his restraint not his readiness to condemn…his patience not his punitive posture…his kindness…his kindness.
His love draws us into him, not an unhealthy fear of him. We tremble at his feet in gratefulness bound up in humility, not because we are smitten by his wrathful vengeance that longs to cast us into the pit of hell, but because he loves us so much he would rather die for us than destroy us.
Why do I believe this to be true? Because it’s what happened when God put on flesh and made his dwelling among us. Jesus didn’t run off sinners. They drew near to him (Luke 15:1-2; Matthew 11:19). The only folks he ran off were the religious or those who eventually couldn’t get on board with the teachings (see John 6). Sinners seemed to be drawn to Jesus because he offered a different brand of hospitality and holiness. Jesus’ love was so holy, so “set-apart” that it stood in contrast as an alternative form of piety far different from the so-called holiness and piety of the religious leaders. Jesus loved with a “holy love,” one capable of offering compassion to the condemned by extending the welcome of God, a welcome so drenched in love and grace that it turned sinners into saints.
It is the kind of love I finally awakened to after years of drunken and drug-filled nights and failed relationships laced with outbursts of verbal abuse, manic depression and a whole host of other sins too long to keep anyone’s interest. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still a raging machine of a mess, but Jesus hasn’t run me off. He still welcomes me and because of his holy love, I am changed day-by-day by his Spirit. Or so I hope.
So when considering another person’s lifestyle or values system or behavior that runs contrary to my own, or strays from what I believe is God’s best, I am reminded that in light of my own sin and the welcome I’ve received by King Jesus, my job is simple: to live my life in such a way that Jesus gets a fair shot with every one else.
One thing I’ve come to learn from many years of missing the point is that when I do the opposite and fall into the trap of believing I am called to be some sort of defender of holiness rather than a witness of holy love, I hurt others; I look less like Jesus and more like the Pharisee. But if by some small measure of grace I listen to God’s presence within, I remember that I am merely an unworthy recipient of his holy love, and with the same grace that is saving me I am free to be gracious and welcome others as Christ continues to welcome me.
Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Therefore welcome one another, just as the Messiah also welcomed you, to the glory of God.