Tag Archives: loving the sinner

To Love God

In Matthew 9, Jesus was at the home of Matthew eating with some unsavory people. The top religious leaders saw him dining with them and asked, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” (NLT) They asked it loud enough that Jesus heard them, which meant that Matthew and his friends heard it too. Jesus said, “Heathy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” Then he challenged them to go and find the meaning of the scripture that says, “I desire mercy [that is, readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin)” (AMP).

I figured if Jesus wanted them to find the meaning, He probably wanted us to find the meaning as well. The original passage is found in Hosea 6:6. It says, “I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me” (GNB). The first thing God wants from any of us is an unconditional, constant love. A couple of verses back, He says that His children’s love vanishes as quickly as the morning dew. The kind of love that irritates God is the conditional kind that depends on what He does.

God loves you no matter what you do, and He expects the same. Jesus was upset with the Pharisees because they claimed to be the holy ones in Israel, but inside they were anything but holy. When His actions didn’t meet up with their expectations of the Messiah, their love and wonder waned. What Jesus was pointing out to them in the Scripture He sent them to was that they really didn’t know God, and He would rather they know Him instead of knowing what the Law said.

We have to be careful of the same trap they fell into. We cannot let our love for God depend on expectations we have of Him when we don’t fully know Him. God knows that the more we know Him, the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the more we will have a readiness to help those in spiritual danger. They are the ones who need our help the most. Jesus knew it, and He wanted us to know it too. The heart of God beats for the lost, and He’ll do what it takes to reach them, even if it doesn’t make sense to others. When we truly know Him, our heart will beat for the lost like His.

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

When I think back to the time in my life when I was hurting inside deeply, I think back to what I did, where I went who I hung out with. I was reeling from a wife who left me for another man, a business that was failing and the possibility of having to file bankruptcy. Instead of finding my strength and help in the church, I turned away. I was ashamed of everything that was happening in my life and I didn’t want to admit to those who knew me what was going on. I was embarrassed at what was happening so I disappeared.

I found myself in a bar each night trying to numb the pain. I found new friends who wouldn’t know who I was and could accept me for who I was just forced to become. People from the church tried to reach out, but I ignored them because now I was floating further from the person I was supposed to be. After a while the calls slowed from the church and they picked up from my bar friends. I sat in the bar each night feeling sorry for myself and for who I was becoming.

There was a plaque on the wall behind the bar that read, “In times of trouble, friends are recognized.” I remembered thinking, these are my real friends. They’re the ones who are here during my time of trouble. I blamed the church for not helping me when I’m the one who left. I’m the one who didn’t return the calls of the few who did try to reach out. I felt like I had been abandoned by the church and embraced by the people in the bar, but I wasn’t being me. I was being the person who was letting my circumstances define me.

I knew life there was hallow and would be temporary, but I enjoyed the anonymity and lack of expectations. The while time, I knew that wasn’t who I was, however I was changing slowly into that person without realizing it. One afternoon, a co-workers husband asked me, “When was the last time you were in church?” I let him know it had been a while. He looked me in the eye and said, “Boy, you need to be where people really love you and can help you. Your church doesn’t care what’s happened. They will love you anyway. You need to be around them so they can help nurse you back to health.”

For those of you who are in the position I was in, my church did accept me back. They loved me no matter what. The fears that people would talk about me or reject me were unfounded. Those thoughts were used to keep me away from where I needed to be. The truth is that only those who knew the real me had the ability to truly love me. They are the ones who had the power to bring healing. If you’re tired of running, hiding and pretending to be someone you’re not, it’s time to go back to church for healing.

For those of you in the church, when you see those who have left come back, they need your love and acceptance more than you know. They need your unconditional love to nurse them through the pain. Be like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Instead of asking where they’ve been or what they’ve done, open your arms, run to them, wrap them in love and make them feel welcome. It’s harder than you think to walk back through those doors and face people you think you’ve disappointed. Don’t make it more difficult on them by shunning them or ignoring them. They need a friend, not a judge.

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