I got a letter from a friend today. She is not a Christian and declares that she will never become one. We have been friends for many years and have talked through tough issues as well as walked through some difficult journeys as she has tried to navigate her way through life.
Today her letter expressed in no uncertain terms that her heart was broken. She asked me, why some Christians are so unkind? I responded quickly to her letter as best I could. She then expanded on the situation. She has been told that she is going to hell and to add fuel to the fire someone she cares about was treated unkindly by a close member of his family who is a Christian. This young man has never felt loved or accepted and neither has he been affirmed by his Christian father. It seems my friend has been told once too often that she or someone she cares about is hell bound. I felt sad! I do know Jesus would definitely not respond to my friend or this young man in this way.
There are wonderful, godly Christian people all around the world. I happen to know some of them! Many of the people I know have sacrificed immensely to help others - to see their lives improved - to challenge injustice and to care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. However, it only takes one unkind, uncaring and ungracious person who claims they are a Christian, to ruin it for the rest.
So let me share how I believe Jesus would deal with someone who was not living a Christian life.
- He would not say anything cruel or unkind: Look at John 8 and the story of the woman caught in adultery. No where do I read that Jesus told her she was going to hell! When the Pharisees brought her to Jesus and told Him what an awful, deprived sinner she was he did not say one word. He remained silent and began to write in the sand. We could learn a valuable lesson from Jesus to be economical with our words. As Francis of Assisi said, "Testify always, sometimes use words."
- He would fight their cause: I marvel at Jesus. He never openly rebuked the men who had been cruel and unkind to this woman. Yes, she was caught in adultery and sleeping with another woman's husband, but Jesus stoops down and writes in the sand. Jesus act of writing in the sand and saying nothing was probably a quiet and solid rebuke to the Pharisees. In the situation with the woman, Jesus fights in her corner. I am paraphrasing here, but I imagine in 21st century language Jesus would have said, "Okay, let the person who has no sin in their life throw the first stone." What happens after that is telling. One by one those religious people leave the scene. Jesus conquered their ruthlessness and bigotry in a most gracious manner.
- He would love and accept that person: Jesus showed the woman love and acceptance - all this was done in a quiet and dignified way. Notice how few words Jesus used. It was his action that spoke volumes! But He also affirmed her with His words by telling her that He did not condemn her.
- He would would want that person to be free: Jesus says to the woman, "Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you." However, His parting words are, "Go now and leave your life of sin." He loved the woman, accepted her, fought her cause and then called her to a greater and nobler life that He knew would make her free. Jesus wanted her to experience wholeness and freedom. He wasn't judgmental or unkind, He wanted the best for this woman and His act of love and acceptance revealed that.
For those of us who are trusting God for loved ones to find healing and wholeness, let us model the way of Jesus. If we love and accept people they will more likely listen to us. And even if they do not, we are still to love and accept them. It is my view, that we should not judge other people. If we have not walked in a person's shoes we should not judge them. Of course, there is always room to judge our own hearts...and the Bible also speaks about judging those in the faith, but that is another topic.
My prayer is that in 2015 Christ followers will honor God in all they say and do. People are watching the way we live our lives. When we are judgmental and unkind we are not modeling the beautiful, kind, forgiving Jesus that was at the scene in John chapter 8.
Perhaps the one you love will encounter this amazing Jesus in 2015. If they encounter His genuine love and acceptance through you, I am sure their hearts will be won over by His magnificence and grace.
I am and always will be,
Recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,