Last time I explored whether it’s possible to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” My conclusion in a nutshell was that the sin, rather than the sinner, is the enemy. In short, “Yes.” It’s not only possible, but the only compassionate response when you see someone about to go off the rails.
The next question is, what does this response actually look like? How can I best convey love? Especially when every instinct tells me to launch into full Mrs. Self-righteous McJudgy-pants mode?
Jesus’ response is always perfect. I was reading in the Gospel of Luke when last week’s question came up, so I’ll use an example I found there.
In Luke 5:27-32, Jesus invited a tax collector named Levi (later called Matthew) to follow him. Levi collected from the Jews to pay the Romans. He was allowed to charge extra and pocket the difference–a shady occupation at best, verrry unpopular with the average oppressed Jewish person.
But Levi left his ill-gotten gains behind, walking off the job to follow Jesus. Then he threw a big party in Jesus’ honor, inviting all his tax-collector and other shady friends to meet him.
What did Jesus do at dinner — tell everyone they should be ashamed of themselves?
Nope. He sat down to eat with them and get acquainted. Everyone was happy as could be.
Except the religious leaders. They griped at Jesus for showing grace to these sinful people.
Here is Jesus’ reply to the leaders:
It is not those who are well who need a physician,
but those who are sick. I have not come to call
the righteous but sinners to repentance.
You see what he did there. Jesus didn’t deny that these folks were sinful. He acknowledged that they needed to repent. But in perhaps the most tactful, roundabout rebuke ever, he as good as told the religious elite, “I’ve come to call those sinners you’re complaining about, but not you.”
Does that sounds harsh, like Jesus plays favorites? Another story in Luke explains his reasoning. This one is in Chapter 18. Luke records a parable Jesus told “to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.”
The story didn’t end well for the self-righteous.
Jesus didn’t come to congratulate anybody for being righteous. None of us warrants it. Instead, we all need his forgiveness… and our need is really all we have to bring him.
As near as I can figure, the religious elite’s pride in self and contempt for others kept them from asking for and receiving forgiveness.
What about you? Do you trust yourself, that you’re righteous enough? Or do you admit you need grace and always will? If you know you need forgiveness, there’s no room for contempt.
Only grace. And it’s amazing.
Because it changes hearts.
Thanks for reading,
I’m linking up with the very gracious Jen and my Soli Deo Gloria friends. Join us?