This post was originally simply going to be a Facebook status, but once I wrote it, it looked a bit too long and I had a couple extra things to say, so it expanded and yet likely maintained it’s poorly-written structure …
I’ve had a number of conversations with people over the past year that end up involving some form of question posed to me about whether or not we should be willing to “call a sin a sin”. Another way it is often put is that we are just “standing up for the truth” in a world that makes moral behaviours relative.
And et cetera.
Now, please understand, I am not trying suggest there is NEVER a time and place for speaking out against ‘sin’ … but what I am trying to give here is the answer you will (almost always) hear from me to explain why I, personally, cannot join in with that way of “standing up for the truth”.
Let’s start with the basic, foundational reason: Jesus didn’t simply call sin, sin or “stand up for the truth” and so, neither will I.
Sure, Jesus was very clear on what he considered to be right ways of living that lead to life and those wrong ways which lead to death. But, while he may have done this in his teaching to his disciples or other interested groups, whenever Jesus encountered individual people actually “living in sin”, he tended to dish out grace frivolously and rarely even mention their sins.
See how he responds to extortionists (Matt. 9:9-13), violent invading army leaders oppressing his people (Matt. 8:5-13), and people living in sexual sin (Luke 7:36-50).
As Preston Sprinkle eloquently said, “Jesus didn’t often lead with law; instead, he led with love and he loved people into holiness.”
But, it goes further. There was a group of people that Jesus got very upset with … religious leaders.
Those people who put weights on people to keep them from his Kingdom.
Those people who try to defend the boundaries and determine who is permitted in and who needs to be kicked out.
Jesus was very aggresive when it came to dealing with this thinking. He called those people the sons of their father; the devil!
Here’s where I want to compare and contrast two biblical words. The first is Satan, or in Hebrew ha-satan. This word, which has come to be used as a proper name, originally was simply a noun which meant “accuser”. It is the noun form of the verb used in Genesis when Adam, refusing to deal with his own sin, passes the buck to Eve and blames her. The word for blame (or accuse) is the verb form of what becomes satan in our language.
Now, for a word that is key to our understanding of who God is; paraclete. This is a Greek word used to describe the Holy Spirit. When Jesus is telling his disciples in John 14 what to expect when he leaves, he explains that the Holy Spirit will come. This word is “paraclete” and has been translated “helper” or “comforter”. But, in reality, this was a legal term — the paraclete was a legal assistant, a counsel for the defense, an advocate, someone who pleads another’s cause. Basically, this is someone who will stand up for another person and intercede on their behalf.
So, we have satan — one who stands opposed to another and accuses — and the Holy Spirit — one who comes alongside another and defends.
According to a recent survey on religion in the US, Christians have an image problem, which is leading to the rise of people who do not consider themselves “religious” in any way.
When given a list of possible attributes to describe Christians:
- 81% checked ‘yes’ next to ‘judgmental.’
- 85% checked ‘yes’ to ‘hypocritical’ (judging others while doing similar things themselves)
- 70% checked ‘yes’ to insensitive
- 64% said Christians were ‘not accepting of those different than them.’
So, based on these results, when people from ‘outside’ look at the church, what do they see? Do they see us accusing others or defending others; standing opposed to others or coming alongside others; the satan or the paraclete?
It seems I may have forgotten we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and instead tend to be filled with the spirit of accusation.
And that’s why the only “stand for truth” I’ll be making is following the example of Christ and destroying any perceived boundaries keeping people outside. I want to be known for accepting people with open arms, grace and no mention of what specks might be in THEIR eyes.
It’s my own sin that should be of concern to me.