Vocalist and faith-based comedian Mark Lowry was speaking to an audience at a Bill Gaither show about how we come to love other people. He touched on several points that spoke about his past, always ready to bring religion people and how, over the years, he’s grown to change into someone focusing on loving others. And the words that really stuck with me were:
Love the sinner, hate your own sin.
Such profound words! And I’ve been thinking on them since I heard them, more so as I’ve come to learn more about certain things my friends have done that, as believers in Christ, I question why they would do these things. Never did it mean that I or God ever failed to love them and seek the best for them, OR that I was better than them (by no means), but for even as far as I’ve come in these past years into learning to love people regardless of where they are, I want most that those I love dearly live in the peace of a holy heart.
It’s not easy to love the sinner. First, you have to overlook his or her behavior. Some people would have you simply ignore people’s behavior, as if behavior wasn’t an indicator of what was going on in their heart, and that there’s nothing immoral with behavior. I wish that were the case — it might make life easier — but the truth doesn’t change merely because we wish it would.
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23
We’re all sinners. Think of the most unholy person you know, and know that the most holy person you know is just as far from God as the unholy, and yet the unholy person is just as loved the holy!
For God commended his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – Romans 5:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast – Ephesians 2:8-9
… and to keep those who accept Christ from boasting as if it were by their own prowess or efforts.
Salvation is a free gift from God received after genuine repentance and baptism – Acts 2:38-40
We cannot earn God. We cannot become holy enough, go to church enough, read the Bible enough, speak well enough or otherwise by good enough to get into the “good graces” of God. We’re already IN the good grace of God, and Jesus came to ask us to accept him as our personal Lord and Savior, to acknowledge that we are sinners and that we can’t do it alone.
Further, we were made to need Him. That’s not an accident. We were born dependent and in need.
When I consider my friends and their troubles — or troubles to come from current behavior — I first remind myself that I, first, have enough of my own sin to worry about, and the last thing I should do is tell everyone else how to fix their own lives.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Matt 7:3-5
I first must take care of myself, and that means I must go before God.
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalms 139:23-24
I struggle with my sin. I try to repent and turn from my sin, but I cannot be free of it. Sometimes it’s the same thing, sometimes it’s different, but while I always keep pressing to be clean, I recognize that because I am weak and because God is all powerful, my sin will be used for a higher purpose and to glorify God.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
So I trust God to move as I seek repentance, cleansing me, bringing peace and creating change. My responsibility is to come before Him for myself. I’m not in charge of saving every other person, nor will I be held accountable for their sins. I am held accountable, though, to be honest and open to fellow believers when I see them falling short of God’s calling.
When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. … Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul. – Ezekiel 3:18-21
And yet at no point am I allowed to be their judge or jury. I am not allowed to lay the heavy burden of guilt or shame on others — believer or nonbeliever — for how they live their life.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. – Matt 7:1-2
I am only to be honest about God’s word and point of view, and, more importantly, an expression of God’s love in their lives, because I am neither Holy enough to judge nor powerful enough to change others. I can only be support for those around me and encourage them to build a relationship with God. I can only continue showing them who God has been to me: graceful, patient, loving, powerful, peaceful, life itself.
So, to my friends who are seeking comfort in the arms of strangers, in the bottom of a bottle, by hiding from broken relationships at work, are committing adultery, are soaking in porn, worry about everything by living in fear, think only and ever of money for happiness, wrap themselves in shallow vanity and otherwise worship the things of this world: I love you. I am you, and you are me, and I will love and lift you in my life and in prayer to God.
You are not alone and you never will be. God loves you and wants to draw Himself into you and pull out the painful thorns embedded by your past, by people who loved you and hurt you, but experiences that broke your heart, and not only seal the cracks, but heal them. The hungers that drive you to drink, snort, worry, rage, screw, lust, long and fear … they can be healed. YOU can be healed. Trust in God, and He will never fail.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6