“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”
— Billy Graham
How would it change the church if we poured our efforts into loving people instead of judging them? How would it change the world?
As Christians, we sometimes assume it is our job to act as the “spiritual police” in our communities. We take it upon ourselves to root out and expose any sort of potential sin or heresy or dissent that we perceive to be wrong or harmful.
While there is a place for spiritual interventions and calling out sin, I think many times we’ve lost sight of the necessary balance and inadvertently crossed the line into pharisaical territory. We’ve become our own spiritual versions of accuser, judge, and jury without leaving enough room for the power of love or mercy. We shake the dust off our hands in satisfaction that we’ve done God a service by refusing to allow any perceived offense to go unchallenged.
In our well-meaning attempts to foster holiness and righteousness in our communities, have we unwittingly become like the stone-throwing religious leaders that Jesus spoke out against time after time?
Have we taken the teachings of Jesus and the inspired words of the Holy Spirit and used them not to save but to condemn? Have we become so short-sighted as to draw our own box of restrictions in the sand that Jesus never intended to be drawn?
Coming from a background of legalistic thinking, I think I understand this tendency better than some. When we are so convinced that we have it right about life, about God, about theology, we want to let that be known clear and strong all around us. We feel the need to promote the truth and expose the falsehood according to our tightly-held convictions. We feel morally obligated to view the world through those specially tinted glasses and set our friends, families, and faith communities straight if they waver from that standard the slightest bit.
But why do we do that? Is it because we love God and are trying to do the right thing? Or could it be because that hyper-vigilance makes us feel righteous?
Motives are wide and varied and sometimes we don’t even really know why we do something. Beliefs and corresponding actions can be so deeply drilled into us that they feel more like instinct than a conscious choice.
In light of that, maybe we need to make an concerted effort to dig beneath the surface and figure out just what is driving us, what is the impetus behind our words and actions.
And if, in the process of soul-searching, we discover motivations that aren’t so pure and innocent as we thought, then maybe we should take a step back and seek the heart of love and compassion and mercy demonstrated by Jesus.
His actions were never tainted by self-righteousness or impossible-to-keep legalistic strictures. His love was free, sacrificial, genuine; he loved not from any ulterior motive or to gain anything, but because he simply was Love. He was illustrating God’s heart.
I know just how hard it is to keep my mouth shut when someone is doing something I think is wrong, especially if it’s someone I care about.
Maybe it is an issue that, from my perspective, is legitimately wrong. But is it always worth it to put in my two cents? Is getting my point across and winning an argument worth possibly hurting or alienating my brother or sister in Christ?
Most of the time, I’d say it’s not. In my experience, getting the last word in is not usually so satisfying in the aftermath as I thought it’d be. In fact, many times it’s just the opposite.
Sometimes love means that we have to step back and let someone make their own mistakes and then clean up their own messes.
That doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to potentially problematic issues. It just means that we are doing our job and leaving the rest up to God. He won’t let any of his children fall out of his line of sight, and his care and concern far outweighs even our best efforts. He doesn’t exactly need our help.
So let’s just focus on loving each other and trust that God can fix anything else that needs fixing.
He is our Father, Savior, Creator, etc. He’s got it handled.
Do you have a personal story about loving people (or not loving people) that you’d like to share?
Thanks so much for reading, and as always, I’d love to hear your comments in the section below!
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