I am a Christian. But more and more I feel compelled to say “I’m not THAT KIND of Christian.”
I think I hear someone saying, “Now what could you possibly mean by that?” Well I’m so glad you asked. I simply mean that there are Christians who spend their public time and words and energy pointing out the sins of others and then there are Christians who point out the remedy. I strive to be the latter. An understanding of both is worthwhile, but I’m suggesting that we should be more careful as Christians about which part of the equation gets more attention.
So often I hear the lists of “Thou Shalt Not:”
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [f]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6)
Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. (Romans 13)
9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers. (1 Tim. 1)
Some Christians are so quick on the draw to condemn those guilty of the above sins, that they seem to forget that they are included. The heteros condemn the homos, and conveniently forget the last time they “coveted,” or “swindled,” or “reviled.” Some of the self-proclaimed pious seem to overlook their own lying, promiscuity, or strife, placing the focus instead on the “irreligious” or the “drunkards,” as though they are not both in the same category.
But the same scripture that lists all these sins also provides an answer. As a matter of fact, the very next sentence after the first passage above reads as follows:
11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6)
Interestingly, there are several pieces to the biblical model of dealing with sin. First enters the Accuser, Satan. Funny, right? The accuser is neither priest nor politician, but all too often they are similar. As a matter of fact, the word sâtan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן) actually means “accuser.” (Rev. 12) Sooo, that’s not my job. In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus makes the point clear that my job is not to separate the good from the bad, but to let Him do it.
So if Satan is the Accuser, who is in charge of conviction? Is that where I come in? No. I’m afraid not. First, Christ told us in Matthew 7:3 to focus on own own sins before others’ sins, and second, the Bible is replete with examples of God, as opposed to man, bringing conviction. Bringing conviction and guilt is not within my job description as a Christian.
So if Satan is the Prosecutor and God is the Judge, who is the Advocate, the Friend, the Defense? Christ. The Savior. (1 John 2:1) He came to restore us to good standing with God, in spite of our own behavior and the accusations of the enemy.
Christ is not in the business of condemnation. He is in the business of restoration. So I, likewise, choose to be more about restoring and less about condemning.
But I hear your voice again, and I think I hear you saying, “Aren’t Christians supposed to “Call out sin?” Yes, but similarly to what I said at the beginning, Not That Way. One of the strongest verses for the “calling out of sin” is in 1 Timothy 5: 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. But isn’t this directed at the inner workings of the Church, as opposed to all of society? From my perspective the Church seems to apply this verse to their (our) treatment of society rather than ourselves. Consider 1 Corinthians 5, written by the same author:
9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I didnot at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But [f]actually, I wrote to you not to associate [g]with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God [h]judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
Am I suggesting that Christians should have a different standard for themselves than others? YES. We are to judge ourselves and not the rest of the world. Why? Because, if we believe the Bible, we are empowered toward clean living by the Holy Spirit while non-believers are not. But the Church has reversed this Pauline rule. We judge the rest of the world and sweep our own sins under the proverbial rug.
“I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Gen. 17:8; Jer. 24:7; Jer. 31:33; Jer. 32:38; Ez. 37:23; Ez. 37:27; Zech. 8:8; 2 Cor. 6:16; Hebrews 8:10)
God wants restoration, not condemnation. This is true throughout history. Christ said the same thing with different words (He spoke Aramaic, after all). “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matt. 9:13; Matt 12:7)
So why do we, as the Church, spend our time pointing out the Rules, the Commandments, the Sinners and the Shalt Nots, rather than the Forgiveness, the Grace, the Mercy, and the Redemption? Why do we “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but refuse to move the burdens?” (Matt 23:4) Why do we still, after 2000 years, continue to “clean the outside of the cup and the plate,” instead of working on the “greed and self-indulgence inside?”
Because there is really only one kind of Christian. One kind of human, for that matter. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Let’s not pretend otherwise. And let’s focus on restoration. Christ offers it.
That’s what Easter is all about, Charlie Brown.