By Michael Lewis Parsons
Several months ago, after I had lectured on the subject of Christ's LOVE, someone sent me an e-mail, confessing that – as a Christian, she regularly had conflicting feelings toward "gays, terrorists, child abusers, murderers, etc" (her words, not mine). In his note, the woman quoted from Leviticus 18:22, citing a verse about gays being an “abomination to God”, and said she felt it would be hypocritical to “love the sinner but hate the sin"...especially when she didn't actually feel that way. Yet, she wondered if he should still pray for them.
At the time, I recall thinking that the reason this person asked the question was – not out of hatred for any one person, or even one specific group – but because she legitimately wanted to LEARN how to love others, as Christ loved so many of the "sinners" in HIS day, even though this woman knew in her heart that she lacked the ability – and possibly even the desire – to love as Christ loves.
My response to her was that, as a Follower of Christ, our responsibility is NOT to judge the spiritual status of a non-Believer – since GOD says (in Matthew 7:1), "That's MY job!" – but instead, to identify a person's transgressions – not as WE see them, but as God in the Bible describes them – as a way to help drive that individual to REPENTANCE. This is called evangelism, and it is the #1 function/goal of ALL true Followers of Jesus Christ.
And yet...too often, we Christians look DOWN on the sinful world – at times, even, with DISDAIN and sinful PRIDE – and seem APPALLED at their “decadent” behavior...even as we forget that we TOO were once sinners...unsaved, unrepentant, and viewed as despicable in the eyes of an all-seeing God.
Knowing this, then...how SHOULD we Christians act when confronting non-saved individuals; and in particular, when dealing with the aforementioned “gays, terrorists, child abusers, murderers, etc.”?
First, it helps to define EXACTLY what qualifies a person as a CHRISTIAN, realizing that a BELIEVER in Jesus Christ is NOT someone characterized as being only a "good” person.
On the contrary, a Believer in Christ is someone who has put their FAITH in what Jesus did on a cross 2,000 years ago, and is now fervently following that faith. More specifically, Salvation occurs when a person DESIRES (Hebrews 11:1) a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; then humbles themselves before our Lord (James 4:10), and accepts His FREE gift of Salvation.
Secondly, a person's behavior has NO bearing on God's decision to SAVE that individual, since ones Salvation is NOT based on whether that individual is intrinsically good or bad, kind or evil, saintly or sinful, gay or straight. In God's eyes, no one is too bad to be saved, since our perceived "sinful behavior" is not the criteria by which God judges us. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Many of us still remember the summer of 1976, when David Berkowitz – the infamous “Son of Sam” – murdered seven people, before being caught and imprisoned for life. At the time, Berkowitz was likely the most reviled person in the US. However, what most people do not know is that in 1987, Berkowitz became a Born-Again Christian, and today, acts as the prison chaplain.
Thus, knowing Salvation is free for EVERYONE – even serial killers – how then should we Christians act toward the unsaved?
Fortunately – as He always does – Jesus sets the perfect example (in John 4:1-42) when He meets the "unclean", "second-class" Samaritan woman at the well. Knowing her heart, knowing her spiritual emptiness, as God, Jesus also knew the woman had had several husbands...and was even now “living in sin”.
So, did Jesus avoid the woman, as the religious Pharisees did to ALL people from Samaria; to ALL outsiders? Did He berate the woman for her sinful actions? Did He reveal her sin, only to throw it back in her face in an act of self-righteousness?
No. On the contrary, Jesus showed nothing but love to the woman. Then, once she was receptive to the truth of His words, Jesus explained exactly how to be saved and inherit eternal life. The woman immediately accepted the grace of our Lord; then went back into town and brought others...and they too were saved.
Thus, by using the Lord's own example, we see exactly how we should treat non-Believers...with charity, empathy and respect. To treat sinners with contempt – instead of showing them kindness and love – is to BLATANTLY disobey our Lord, Jesus Christ, who speaking through the words of the apostle John said, “…whoever says he abides in Him [Jesus] ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” (I John 2:6)
So, John is saying..."NO HYPOCRITES!"
Later, in the same letter, the apostle uses even stronger language when he says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother – whom he has seen – cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (I John 4:20)
But doesn't Christ say that people are to be held accountable for their actions (Luke 12:43-46)? Yes, but it is only AFTER a person is saved that they are required by Christ to “act like a Christian”. Once a person has accepted Christ’s FREE gift of salvation, it is only THEN that the Lord begins to work on that individual's conduct, as little by little, He guides that person toward a more Christ-like spiritual existence. (This is called Sanctification.)
Now, more than ever, we who claim to be Followers of Jesus Christ need to emulate Him...knowing that, when we do, we present to the unsaved world evidence of a CHANGED person – not a perfect individual, by any stretch – but, instead, someone who has been PERFECTED...by the grace of Jesus alone.
So, in conclusion...Is a Christian supposed to love EVERYONE? Yes. Everyone.
End of story.
(March 6, 2017)