In a recent conversation, someone asked me to condemn someone I didn’t know for a specific sin committed by that person. I agreed that what had happened was not biblical, but went on to saying that I truly felt sorry for that someone and that it was not up to me to judge him or her. That was obviously not good enough. “But if you agree that it’s a sin, you should confront this person. Let the truth be heard!”
I sensed that this was not out of concern for this person’s soul or well-being. It was disgust. Disdain. It was a need for vengeance.
I argued that it was the job of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin, but it fell on deaf ears. My arguments on how there is no difference between gossiping or lying, murder and adultery – it’s equally sinful in the eyes of the Lord – was met with outrage. The last I heard, was, “I certainly hope you’ll never be asked to speak publicly about this!”
So, I’m going to.
Have you ever noticed that it’s always easier to spot someone else’s mess than your own?
You get used to leaving the mail on the shelf, while others find that annoying. You walk past it every day without even noticing, until someone makes you aware of the disorganized stack of half-forgotten mail. Then you either remove it, or you continue without caring. That mess is your normal, a reflection of your state of mind, your acceptable chaos. To others, it’s a disgrace. Maybe they have a blessed mess on their kitchen counter that you find overwhelming. They don’t seem to mind while you are troubled by their hazardous havoc.
Their mess annoys you, while you no longer see your own.
Jesus discussed it in the parable of the splinter and the beam. Your neighbor’s minor issue troubles you, while you have become blind to the mayor issues of your own life.
A friend of mine once said, “We don’t clean up in our house. We just put things back in their regular spot right after we’ve used them.” I didn’t know whether to admire or strangle him, so I just looked at him weirdly, like he spoke a language that I didn’t understand. After all, he kinda did. Putting things back in their regular spot… Yeah, like that’s gonna happen in our house!
Maybe your home is nice and tidy, but we all have that one place…
… whether it’s on your kitchen counter or at the bathroom shelf. At your desk or under the bed. In the laundry room or in the tiny cabinet underneath the stairs. In the garage. Behind the stove. In the garden shed. You know what I mean. Where order goes to die. Where things are not put in their regular spot, but rather left to their own devices, literally.
Likewise, we tend to keep a corner of our mind reserved for our pet sin, the one we are reluctant to let go of, the very same one we hide from others. What cobwebbed tenant occupies your corner? Is it gossip or backstabbing? Lying and half-truths? Envy or the self-promotion at the expense of others? Lust or disgust? Or plain self-loathing?
On this side of heaven, we all have something that we struggle with. That doesn’t mean that we must succumb to it. We can choose not to. We can even choose not to judge our neighbor. Imagine that.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1, NKJV
Should we not stand up for what is right?
Yes, we should. But not by condemning those who do something wrong.
The truth has set us free. Free to do what? To punish others? To hold them captive in their guilt? Or by providing them with an example to follow, leading the way into the light of freedom? Are we conveniently forgetting that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty?
No wonder Jesus addressed the splinter and the beam. It took a carpenter to figure out the entire Christian woodchopping industry!
What motivates our need to punish others? Does the focus on my neighbor’s splinter make my own beam easier to carry? Or does the beam cloud my vision, leading me to believe that I am above reproach?
I am blameless in the eyes of the Lord. However, my freedom does not depend on my works or lack of such, but on the perfect, selfless life, sacrifice, and ultimate victory of Christ.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8, NIV.
So, why are we so reluctant to love those who still live their life in sin?
Is our fear of cross-contamination greater than our love? There is no greater poverty than to live in the courts of the King and still act like a pauper.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18, NIV
Love surrendered himself to obtain your freedom. Freedom to live. To love. To lay down your rights, ambitions and self-righteousness.
You are covered by grace. Pass it on.