It may seem sometimes like being a Christian in the United States of America is a lonely role. In a nation known for being "a Christian nation", it feels like a betrayal when heathen laws are passed or headlines scream ungodly values. Compared to other countries, though, we still hold freedoms to worship Jesus Christ that our sisters and brothers across the world may not. My concern in today's post is not with the unbelievers in our nation or elsewhere; today's focus is on the church itself and why it can feel lonely for the faithful within the church in America. Beyond the loneliness, though, I want to take time today to expose a very popular mindset that is brewing among Christians. One that I believe is more dangerous than having a heathen take away my religious freedom.
Humility. It takes a whole bunch of this to believe and obey. When I'm faith-wobbly or stubborn in disobedience, it's usually because pride has bubbled over and taken over. In considering what is happening among the church in America, we must begin with the realization that pride in our own understanding reigns. We see debates or arguments online--or hear them in person--and there's a whole lot of "I feel...I think..." or "My God is like this..." or "That doesn't make sense to me..." as opposed to standing on the Word of God or trusting that God's ways are not our own. We relish in playing the victim and gather a group of supporters to perpetuate our cause.
This is perhaps nowhere more apparent than when sin is pointed out in us.
And, remember, I'm talking about within the church.
So, what happens when sin is pointed out in us? I want to reveal two common responses within the church.
The first response to sin being pointed out is usually something like this..."You have no business talking about my sin! You have your own sin. You're discredited in pointing out mine. That's God's job, not yours."
This idea of keeping your nose in your own business is worldly. It's no different than a dying patient in a hospital being told by a doctor that it's not his business to care for their fatal wounds. For our pastors (and elders and other godly believers in our lives) to be good shepherds to their flocks, they must must must point out our fatal spiritual wounds, our sin. To turn a blind eye to this serious issue is just not loving or caring for our eternal souls.
The second response to sin being pointed out is..."We are all sinners and God loves us just the way we are."
What are we like, "just the way we are"? And, what did Jesus do in response to us in that condition?
Through Jesus Christ, sinners are made new. (See 2 Corinthians 5: 17) We do not identify ourselves as who we once were, but now we identify ourselves as Christ's own. Our old man has been crucified and buried so that the new man can be raised up from the dead and walk out in newness of life.
When Christians embrace sinners in their sin (and leave them there), they are withholding vital life-giving truth from them. In no place in the Bible did Jesus meet sinners and just "hang out with them, hoping they will eventually hear the Good News of His salvation". He is loving; He is bold.
In John 4, He walks through Samaria even though "good Jews" would never step foot there. May that challenge us in our own worlds. But...when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman, He says, "You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband." Whoa. Wow. If that kind of thing was said in person or on Facebook, I can imagine the comments now. That's not very loving. You're a sinner too, ya know. Why do you have to tell them the truth right off the bat? Give them some time to know they're loved and accepted then hopefully they'll see the truth and have a chance to repent then. May we stop leaning on our own understanding and trust in the Lord with all our hearts. Follow Christ's example--love and truth.
This is not an exception to the rule. This is how Jesus always operated. Just from the Gospel of John: Speaking truth to Nicodemus (chapter 3); healing the man at the Pool of Bethseda (John 5: 14); offending the masses with difficult teachings (John 6); the adulteress woman (John 8: 11)...and so many more.
Sin must be pointed out in us because we are perpetual sinners and this breaks our intimacy with our holy Father. In order to grow in our relationship with Christ, we must always be fighting against our sin so we may be victorious over it. Never should we relish it. Never should we be content to remain in it. Even though we are sinners, we are also saints (see Paul's introductions to his epistles) and it is not worthy of saints to embrace sin and be satisfied in it. Not our own; not others. It is a hard thing to hear a friend speak words of rebuke to me, yet it is a welcome sting as God brings about repentance and refining sanctification in me. How else can I be stripped of my flesh and conformed into His Son's image?
So, sisters-in-Christ, when sin is revealed in us, may we heed this graffiti-wisdom. Change your life. Do not dwell in your sin. Do not make excuses. And, for pity's sake, do not take it out on the dear person who probably rebuked you with fear and trembling. (That ain't fun for nobody!) Instead, change your life. Change the direction you're heading. In other words, repent.
Am I suggesting doing this in your own strength? To just do better next time? If you're a faithful reader of this blog, I hope you know better of me. May God receive all the glory in this work...through His conviction of sin, through His sacrifice of it, through His power and strength to overcome it, and through His gift of repentance. This change is all from Him, through Him, and for Him.
May the church of America be filled with strength, wisdom, and discernment as we experience temptation to fear, to give in to the acceptance of sin, and to deny the Name of Jesus. May we have Your word, Lord, to share with those in opposition against you, even those from within the church. In all of this, may we imitate Christ through His loving boldness. Help us, Father, to point others to Your truth and Your good news, especially when neither is welcome or popular. We depend fully on You so that You may be glorified through all the earth. Amen.
With love, Wendy