There should be an obvious difference between Christians and non-Christians; but that’s not always the case. The unchurched have not held back from sharing their assessment of Christians. They see us as nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites.
I don’t blame them for their perception of Christians. I certainly see and understand their point of view. It’s not like we have behaved any differently than they. Our words and actions have given us away. We profess Christianity, but the truths we so freely speak of are not mirrored in many of our lives.
For instance, we seem to have no problem when it comes to loving the sinner where he’s at in an effort to “win him to Christ.” A Christian will do so with the utmost patience, readily making himself available to him in his times of weakness, encouraging him regularly without criticism or judgment.
The Christian will also forgive the sinner repeatedly when he falls, reassuring him that only God can change him and exhorting him to not give up. His love for and commitment to the sinner is truly authentic and his Christ-guided efforts result in much fruit.
Yet, that patience quickly dwindles when having to put up with the shortcomings of another brother or sister in Christ, especially in one’s own church. Why do we place a higher standard of expectations on those in the church? Are we not unfairly setting them up to fail?
Christians are nothing more than sinners saved solely by the grace of God!
Could it be that since our brother is a Christian, we feel he should know better? Should he not ever again struggle with temptations or with the sins of this world? Why don’t we provide a safe environment for him to be able to confess his sins and get the help he so desperately needs without fear of retribution, quick-spreading gossip, or being kicked out of the church?
Why do we seek to kill our own wounded? What happened to lovingly standing by them and doing all that we can to see them completely healed and restored? Shouldn’t we extend the same grace, which God so freely shared with us, to our hurting and troubled brothers and sisters in Christ?
In response to a scribe’s question regarding which of the commandments is the greatest, Jesus said:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
Yet, it’s easier and more enjoyable to participate in the choir, serve as an alter worker, teach the 4 year olds, or feed the hungry than it is to put up with a struggling or wayward brother in Christ. The problem is that by disobeying the Lord’s command to love one another; all these other things are sacrificial substitutes, at best.
The Bible says, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice . . . for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23 (NKJV)
My dear friends, the greatest gifts or services we have to offer are nothing but rubbish in comparison to loving others.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)
Could it be that our unwillingness to forgive, our hastiness to judge, and our lack of love for one another are the real obstacles in our own spiritual growth and freedom?
The point is that loving one another isn’t a suggestion from God; it’s a commandment! If we are truly Christians – followers of Christ – then it will show! Others will see our love for one another and know we are Christians.
“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 (NIV)
Let’s make loving others our #1 priority in life.
PRAYER: Father, forgive me for being a hypocrite. I choose to offer forgiveness and extend your love and grace to those who need it. It’s not my place to judge or convict others. My job is only to love. Amen.