When Jesus died for me He died for a liar, cheat, manipulator, rebel, craftsman of cussing, neglectful wife, substance abusing adulteress. He died for someone who was not going to respect her parents, cheated on tests in school, and neglected her upbringing in church.
He died for someone who would follow Him imperfectly. Like yesterday I am not even sure I believed God existed based off the self-centered self-imposed depression I got myself get into. A woman who would not always respect her husband, worry consistently, live off of anxiety as if she needed it to survive, and cut her husband off from pleasure even after becoming a believer. He looked ahead at me and all that I would be and died. His death didn’t pronounce His acceptance of my future lifestyle. He did not see who I was going to be and agree with it and then die anyway. He said Marcy I do this for you so that you may have life and have it abundantly. When you believe upon Me we will be one.
We are called to love and serve others. Jesus asks us to follow His example. We are to live as Christ. Yeah, I know an impossible goal. As we grow in our relationship with God we grow in our understanding of what He accepts and what He doesn’t. We look at people and think God doesn’t approve of that. I don’t want anyone thinking that I approve of that either because that would go against what God says. So we keep our distance, condemn, and ensure these people know that we do not approve.
By default the church draws a line and it should to some extent. Within the church walls are people who say they are trying to follow God and if you attend here you are saying the same thing. A line is drawn between the church goer and those who do not attend. We tend to conglomerate in churches where we agree with their religious beliefs and ways of living out the Christian life. This draws some more lines. The lines of denominations, doctrine, and theology. If you want to enter the church you have to be willing to cross some lines to get in.
These lines have taught us to label others to ensure that we know which group they are in. They prevent us from developing relationships with human beings who look and act differently then we do. Even among denominations there can be rigid lines that have been drawn and that we do not cross. If you are in the do not attend church group and your behavior is outwardly obvious we may not bake you a cake, talk to you at work, or invite you over to our house. You go against what we support and we don’t know what to do with that.
Our society continues to expand social norms. In my almost 50 years of existence I have seen divorce normalized, gay marriage legalized, and now marijuana legalized. Some behaviors do not bother us so much because we can generally avoid them, but some hit you in the face. You look at this behavior and all you can see is wrong! They are wrong. God doesn’t approve of this. You have a legitimate concern. God may not approve and you should hold firm to your beliefs that He doesn’t, but what do we do with the people involved. Do we draw a line? That is the real question and the problem we face.
- Look at yourself. If you can honestly do this then you will free yourself to love anybody. Even your spouse. If you are a believer look at what you still grapple with as a follower of God. I mean really look at it. Be honest. Does your behavior offend God? Yes you will be forgiven if you ask, but does it offend Him? Okay, and what is His daily response to you? Grace, mercy, He hears our prayers, He is our provider, He is our rock, and He is our strength. He loves you.
Before you were saved what we some things YOU REALLY DID? Maybe you never got drunk, had sex outside of marriage, or did drugs, but you were not born a saint. What did you do? How did God deal with that person? He said you were guilty, but He provided a way for you not to have to pay the penalty. He loved you.
I counseled Christians, true believers, for seven years and those people struggled with pornography, drugs, alcohol, hate, bitterness, affairs, and neglecting their children. Their behavior was not pleasing to God, but I knew He loved them. I also counseled a lot of people who didn’t follow God. They struggled with the same things. I never believed their behavior was acceptable to God and I also didn’t believe that associating with them changed my belief or proved that I approved of their behavior. I never thought anything about going out to eat with them, going over to their house, visiting them in the hospital, or giving them a gift. This was a way of loving them and loving others doesn’t mean we accept everything they do. Spouses and parents know this all too well. It means I love you despite what you are doing that is wrong.
- Remember. Jesus died. Words that describe His death include: there was darkness, He was forsaken, He was pierced, others heaped insults on Him, He cried out, they cast lots for His clothes, they mocked Him, He was scourged, hung between two thieves with nails in His hands and feet and died thirsty knowing that His beloved friends had abandoned Him. I feel ashamed about my self-imposed pity party after typing this. Let these words soak in because this is Jesus reaction to those who do not act the way they should. This act of love did not condone anyone’s behavior. Jesus died. He did not accept or change His beliefs. It’s the act that we should remember as we approach others. Can you love others who appear to be living lives completely against God? Yes you can. He did.
- Act. I am married to an unbeliever. I show him love by having sex with him, respecting him, cooking for him, loving him, caring for him, cleaning up after him, changing careers for him, and supporting his goals. Does he act in a way that opposes God? Absolutely. It’s easy to see how he does and he would admit to you that he is not a godly man, but Jesus died and that is my example for how to interact with those who do not follow God. Pleasing my husband does not condone his behavior, but it does demonstrate Christ’s love. It says that while I was a sinner Christ died for me, and while you are a sinner Christ died for you, now let’s be friends. If Christ died for me. Died. Can I bake someone a cake that doesn’t follow God? I hope that we can. Your cake is an expression of love and demonstrates your appreciation for the expression of love you received from God.
All have fallen short of God’s glory.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Do not be afraid to follow Jesus example. Obey God and love others and let God work through that to minister to the hearts of mankind. Loving your neighbor means providing for their needs. Being friends with them and sharing a part of your life with them. It doesn’t mean they approve of our behavior or that we approve of theirs. It means talking, listening, sharing, and loving. If Jesus could die for us can we not at least bake our neighbor a cake, or provide for them in a way that is important to them? I hope that we can. The world needs to see and feel God’s love.
Real faith, real messy, all the time.