I was confronted with some ugliness earlier this week, thanks to a self-proclaimed atheist. Well, actually, because this person is a dearly loved family member, I am challenged frequently, checking and rechecking my heart, my faith, my God. Self: “Yep. I still believe. I still know Him. I’ve checked the track record. God is still good and faithful. Okay. I’m good!”
Before you start jumping to conclusions, this person was not responsible for the ugliness. Self-proclaimed Christians were. I was presented with a poorly-drafted, insensitive tract written for children. When I investigated further, it turned out to be a parody and not the real deal. However, what I came across in my search on the good old worldwide web was heart wrenching. Real sites, real tracts that were not filled with God’s love and grace, but instead with anger and condemnation, even hatred. What have we become?
Brothers and sisters, do we really believe we are better than the people around us who have not yet chosen to receive God’s free gift of grace ~ unearned, undeserved mercy, forgiveness, and love?
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:.. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” ~ Romans 3:10, 23 (KJV)
Are we saved? Yes, praise Jesus! Are we sinless? Oh dear, not even close. But we are set free from the penalty for our sins, through Jesus.
“What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 6:21-23 (NKJV)
Are our sins “better” than others’ sins? God states quite clearly that sin is sin is sin.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” ~ Romans 1:18 (NKJV)
All sin is deserving of God’s wrath. As our pastor states, “All in the Greek means ALL!” Only by being washed clean by Jesus’ blood and clothed in His righteousness can we be spared the wrath our sin rightfully incurs. God poured that wrath out on the cross. Jesus paid that price so we don’t have to.
Do we have our “acts together”? Um, perhaps more so than when God first saved us, but we still have so very far to go. I love, love, LOVE that Paul shares his own personal struggles with us.
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” ~ Romans 7:18-25 (NKJV)
Oh, we mean to be good. Yet, any good thing we do is because of the Holy Spirit working through us.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” ~ Ephesians 5:8-10 (NKJV)
In my own strength, I am like Paul. “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Oh wretched man indeed!
Let’s show love and grace to the lost and hurting around us. Do they need to know that “the wages of sin is death”? Absolutely! But it is not our job to condemn them. It is our job to bring hope and peace, to help point them to the One who loves them so very very much that He sent His one and only Son to freely give up His life and die so that they might live! (John 3:16)
And let’s remember these words, spoken by God Himself:
” ‘ “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” ‘ ” ~ Ezekiel 18:32 (NKJV)
We should likewise have no pleasure in the death of an unbeliever, ever, ever, EVER. Our heart’s desire should be God’s, that they would “turn and live!”
And in the meantime, love them like crazy!