I have noticed a tendency in church and in the world and it’s the natural presumption that the strong will make it but that there is no space for the weak. I see this tendency especially when a brother and sister has fallen short or have committed a sin unthinkable, like adul- tery for example. Please don’t misunderstand me, the sin of adultery as per example can be disastrous. It destroys lives and breaks hearts but it is still not beyond the saving grace and love of God. We recently dealt with such a case where a man was unfaithful to his wife, which affected the church greatly. The result was pure condemnation from the church and no grace was extended.
By writing this I am definitely not accepting the sin or the consequences on the innocent – who gets hurt in the process. What I am high- lighting is that even sinners need love; even wrongdoers need love and even leaders who sins needs Jesus. If we eat our own where is the help for the lost? However, it is important that a balanced approached is followed here in accordance with the Word of God. The point I am trying to make? Is it not the church that should reveal the scandalous love of Christ? Is it not the church that must love the unlovable even though we are taking a risk that they will never change? I would bravely want to say yes! But I understand the gravity of the decision, loving people is not for the faint of heart, especially if they have messed up! But we need brave souls that will take the Masters command serious once again and love all people back to God, even those that led others once.
Recently I sat with an older gentleman who has been serving the Lord faithfully for the last 45 years. I asked him “What do you enjoy about the ministry?” He said, “Nothing”! I said in a surprised voice “How so?” He replied, “I do it because I must not because I want to”! I was shocked and silent. I thought to myself I don’t ever just want to be – I want to make a difference, and the basis of it must be because I love people and because I am loved.
Sadly, however, we haven’t been known as a people of grace and love; rather we have been known for rules, regulations and judgement. Most of the hurting people I have helped back to Jesus were wounded through judgement and contempt. Some of the most ridiculous things we can imagine! For example: Many people have this new thing of adding to the Lord Jesus’ finished work. They believe if they eat certain food or keep special days and call God in a specific language that somehow, they will be closer to Him. Laughable and sad at best, deceived and conceived by rejection. God is not confused. If rules could have saved anyone Jesus came for nothing. The law was there as a guardian, pointing towards Christ (Gal. 3:24). This is the heart of our Gospel: Jesus. Not Jesus and……..Just Jesus. Jesus freaked out every religious person of His day and he came in a form and in a manner that the religious did not expect. He came with a love for the world and its citizens, however these Pharisees where blinded by position, protocols and rules, preconceived ideas and notions of who God is. You see, they knew God in theory, but never knew Him personally. Otherwise they would never have missed Jesus. Jesus Himself said, “You do not know my Father. If you did, you would have known me as have known I have come from the Father” (John 8:19). But their eyes were blinded and their ears dull, deaf with religion, blinded by position. They loved themselves more than the people. Of them it is true that “they Lorded over their people” (1 Peter 5:3)!
Jesus took it a step further with this group of people and called them “vipers” (Matthew 23:33) and “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). He did this due to the fact that they had all the religious regalia in place, but they never helped the people. They never lifted a finger to remove burdens and they just did not care. They themselves were important to themselves; Jesus did not take kindly to this type of mentality. This might shock you but I believe there are many “vipers” around us, ready to strike at people’s failure, ready to engage and to point the finger when mishaps appear and humanity simply comes to the fore. I have made a decision in my heart not to be like this, but to love people wholeheartedly. It is a daily challenge, a daily struggle as it does not come naturally. But there is no turning back. I’ve got dirt and the people around me have dirt. We might as well love one another whilst we are at it. Everyone needs grace, everyone needs help, everybody needs the soothing balm of love. Let’s be those people.
Most of us are like the rich young man. We have squandered our inheritance by wild living. Our living might not be defined by parties, orgies and drunkenness, but it most definitely is defined by a lack of love, unforgiveness, hardness of heart and an attitude against others. Most of us will make hell our home if it wasn’t for His love. But fortunately, most of us do make it back home. In this sto- ry, the younger son spends all he has on wild living. He basically messes up the plan for his life, but he realizes it and wants to go back home. He is willing it forfeit his status just to return home. He is met by a loving Father, ready to renew his inheritance, ready to renew his status, which he did. But there was an old- er brother – the so-called faithful one. He stayed with his dad and did his dues, but his heart was never in it or for it. This was radically revealed when he came home, music blazing, the DJ got his jam on and it is buzzing! He can see through the stained glass how people are having a good time. Wine is flowing, the laughter echoes over the hills and just as he thinks what the heaven is going on he sees a familiar figure in the middle of the dance floor. A bit thinner than he remembers but its him nonetheless – his younger brother – the stupid one. Hatred fills his heart as he walks over to the hall and he is met by his dad that seems full of joy. He is not in the party mood and scolds his dad, “How could you slaughter the best cow, drink the best wine and invite all my friends and celebrate for this runt of a son of yours? How could you spend all this hard-earned money that we have sweated for on the pig boy?” (Luke 15:11-32). His eyes are filled with disdain, hatred and the feelings of betrayal. His younger brother sees him and runs over, tries to hug him but he pushes him away, and storms into the dark.
When I look at this story, I see myself in it from both angles; I am like the older brother and like the younger brother. I am glad to be home and I am glad to be accepted after I have messed up. But I am also not always glad when those that do mess up have a homecoming. Why should I? I feel I have earned it? Our hearts are often filled with pride and self-accomplishment. We easily forget that we haven’t made it on our own. We forget that just yesterday we were with the pigs and like the older brother, we scold the home-comers – maybe not in word but in actions. We reserve our love only for the few. We keep it back for those worthy of our acceptance. We are wolves in sheep clothes, loving just those that dress like us, sing like us, and speak like us. We don’t have time for the broken, the lost, the shamed and the disdained. At best, we will help a poor man, but if we feel the sting of betrayal in our mouths we don’t easily love. If this is how we welcome people, greet people, and speak about people, truly we are the older brother. We miss the broken on the streets, at work and in the church. Most of us just want to make it to “our chair” in church. We are happy when there are not too many shakings, living peacefully behind high walls and even higher fences all hemmed in by religiosity. Are we truly free? I think not. What has become of us? Where are the true Christians?
The above seems a bit challenging and it should be. If we want to help a dying world we will need to change our attitude towards ourselves, the world, and especially our fellow brothers and sisters. Our love will need to go higher. Our grace will need to go wider and our compassion needs to go further, otherwise I am afraid we are losing our own, and we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater!