Saturday, January 12, 2008

God Does Not Hate You, Either.

Nor anyone else for that matter.

Very often, those of us who are church-going people look down our noses at those whom we consider "sinners." There are two reasons, out of a list of many, why we should not do this:
  1. We are sinners, too. Though we might be "saved," we are still sinners and are in need of God's grace every day.
    (Romans 3:8-20)
  2. Jesus told us not to judge others. That's his job, not ours.
    (Matthew 7)
I often hear those whom I know as godly people, go off on a rant against their "pet" sin. Sometimes it's promiscuity, sometimes homosexuality, sometimes substance abuse, etc. It's very sad to hear these otherwise fine and loving people declare that this group or that group is beyond help and God's love and are destined for Hell.

Nothing, though, could be further from the truth. There are people we can read about in the Bible who were "sinners" and did some rather evil things, yet God loved them. First in my mind is David. Among his many "sins," this man had an affair with a woman he was not married to, she being married to someone else. The lady became pregnant from this affair, so David tries to cover the whole thing up by getting her soldier-husband home to sleep with her. When he doesn't, David has him killed and then marries the lady himself. (2 Samuel:11) And yet, this is a man described by God as "a man after my own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14).

The reason why God said that about David was because David, when confronted with his sin, immediately went to God in repentance and God forgave him. That doesn't mean David didn't have to pay for his sins - he often did. But, he was certainly a lot better off than if he hadn't repented.

So, where does that leave us? We need to always remember God loves everyone, irregardless of what they have done or failed to do. Everyone is in the same boat when it comes to needing the forgiveness - that includes the worst sinner on the Earth as well as the most "holy." When we start judging others on our scale, we become like the religious leader in Jesus' story who stood at the front of the temple and pronounced himself "better" than someone else in the room (Luke 18:9-14). We get ourselves into trouble when we consider ourselves "holier than thou."

What got me going on this rant is that church group from Kansas whose members have made themselves prophets by pronouncing that our country is at war and its military members are being killed because we, as a nation, don't condemn homosexuality. This is the group who protests at military funerals holding signs reading "God Hates Fags" and other equally ugly things. These were the same folks who were protesting outside the courthouse when the murderers of Matthew Shepard were on trial, seemingly protesting in favor of the killers because Shepard was gay. Even though that happened almost 10 years ago, I can still clearly see the image of those signs in my mind and it pains me each time I see them.

If you call yourself a Christian and profess to be a follower of Jesus, then you cannot and must not judge others. While he was here, Jesus show himself to be the epitome of love and grace. He didn't hang around with the religious leaders of the day. No, he hung around with "tax collectors" and "sinners." He demonstrated compassion and forgiveness to all who needed it. He did not condemn those people, and he saved his sharpest rebukes for those who thought themselves better than others. Because of their arrogance, they kept regular people away from God by making them feel they were unworthy of his love and forgiveness. We Christians need to follow Jesus' example and demonstrate love and forgiveness to those who need it most. That would be the "unlovable," the "dirty," the "heathens," the "shameful" among us.

The list I posted earlier was meant as a stark reminder of who's boss and who makes the decisions about whether one is "worthy" or not. It's not us, it's God. He's the one who loves everyone and demands we do the same.

We can get into a huge debate about whether homosexuality (or whatever your "pet" sin) is wrong or against the Word of God. The bottom line is: it doesn't matter. It is not up to us to judge those we come in contact with. It's up to us to show love and grace to everyone and to demonstrate God's love in practical ways. Once folks get to know him, they and God can work out their differences without our interference. Believe me, they and you will be a lot better off in God's hands than in yours.

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