Sometimes it’s hard to be a Christian when so many under the same title fail to uphold its standards. Jesus himself made the standards of proper spirituality as simple as one word: love.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Why is it so hard for Christians to focus solely on love? With all our actions, words and motives, it is imperative that they are to be undergirded by love (see 1 Cor. 13:1-3). It is to be the tangible goal of our lives, allowing us to do the will of God in a practical way. Love is practical, and any notion to the contrary is a lie.
The problem is that too many of us are caught up with sin. Are we to grow in grace, or dwell on the dangers of sin?
“How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:2)
“You must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:11)
“Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14)
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
Clearly, sin has no place in our spirituality unless we are in the process of assessing it through the light of God’s grace and accepting our freedom from its grasp. Sin should never be left alone without the overwhelming presence of grace, as Romans 5:17 reads:
“If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (emphasis added)
Those who only trumpet how dangerous the world, the Devil and our hearts are have no proper place in the Church unless they immediately negate those dangers with the freeing power found in grace. We ought to focus on the solution, not the problem.
Sometimes, as a Christian, it’s tempting to be the world’s outspoken agent by renouncing everything bad and sinful that the world does, but if we are to love the way Jesus loved us, I think that simply renouncing the world is a misdirection. We can’t always be telling the world how horrible they are. Although we tend to have a confrontational spirit towards everything that goes against God, we should never dump our anger on the “tax collectors and prostitutes” of our time. After all, Jesus was angry at his fellow men of God, not the “sinners” around him (see Matt. 9:10-13; 23:1-36). If we are to love like him, and show the world who we are, then we would wisely do the same.
An important part of the solution is upholding the art of dialogue, where we intently listen to others and openly discuss what our own faith means and why we believe it. Dialogue is severely absent from the Church’s interaction with the world. Instead of focusing on what’s bad, why can’t we support and encourage what’s good, and then dialogue our way to providing the fresh, freeing power of Jesus for those aspects that aren’t as good? For when we see something admirable about the non-Christian world, shouldn’t we see it as God’s hand at work? If so, let’s not ignore it.
In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul says, “I have become all things to all people.” When we dialogue, we provide the necessary level of trust and peace with our fellow humans to be able to share what Christ has done for us. Jesus himself reclined at the table with those who were not what we would consider “Christians” (Matt. 9:10-13).
I think we need to reserve our confrontational spirit for our friends in Christ, who ought to know better anyway (Matt. 23:1-36). The world needs grace, not condemnation; kindness, not threats of hellfire, is what draws people to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Most importantly, we are all in need of grace whether we are a Christian or not (Eph. 2:1-10).
“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more...” (Rom. 5:20b)
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:34, emphasis added)
Grace wins every time.
Grace wins every time.