How many times have we heard the admonition to hate the sin but love the sinner? But that is the opposite of what Jesus really tells us in Scripture. He says hate the sin but also hate the sin in your own life. When we have taken the log out of our own eye then we may have something to contribute to the discussion.
Sin is so often confused in the thinking of Christians because we see it as acts instead of a condition. When Paul states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) he is not pointing necessarily at individual acts of sin but the total condition of the heart.
Sin is the condition of the heart that whispers into your ear that you are sovereign and equal to God if not greater than Him. This was the sin in the Garden of Eden and this was the sin of the High Priest when he turned Jesus over to the Romans. All our acts of sin pour forth from this inward desire to rule ourselves as we see fit and do as we please.
Bertrand Russell, considered by many to be the father of modern atheism, was an outspoken critic of Christianity and in many ways he was right to have such conflicts. He wrote, “ Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life; the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind….This has been my life, I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.” What I have lived for” prologue to his Autobiography Vol. 1, p4.
Here is my question? Why did Russell not see these qualities in Christianity? Again, they are (a) the longing for love, (b) the search for knowledge, and (c) the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. Are these not the values of anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus?
If you read Russell’s book, Why I am not a Christian, you will see that he uses the life, teachings, morality, etc., of Christian people as his example of why he rejected faith in Christ. We are not perfect and we shouldn’t pretend that we are but that shouldn’t keep us from living the life of a follower of Jesus through the Spirit. Is it too difficult for us to love, search for truth or have pity upon the broken? And yet these traits do not define us in our everyday life, on view, before a skeptical world.
A few nights ago the Lord spoke clearly to my heart that many things that I struggle with as a Christian are really part of who I am. I have lived with these sins all my life or developed them over time through refusing to challenge their validity. I have made excuses for them when I sin by saying that we all stumble and fall. It is one thing to stumble and fall as a Christian but quite another to allow sin to live in the recesses of our heart and mind.
When I bring this up people are uncomfortable because I don’t believe I am alone. People want to change the topic or wash over what I am saying with an “it’s not that bad” type answer. But how deep the sin or the magnitude of it is not the point. The point is that I wish for God to anoint me, use me and lead me on a journey of grace and wonder. If my nature is such that I continue enslaved to it am I able to receive the blessings that God wishes to pour out upon me?
Please don’t anyone write me about how perfection is impossible. I think if you have read my blogs, know me, or listened to me speak over the years you know I am totally opposed to such an unbiblical view. This is not what I am talking about. I am talking about spiritual revival where we long to be closer to God and shed the power of the sinful nature that holds us captive. I know, I know, this will not be completed until the coming of the Lord, but that is not an excuse to shun a growing connection with Jesus.
This all brings me back to the law. When I first became a follower of Jesus I was taught a great deal about the law. It is the perfect character of Jesus, it is the representation of His character, it is to be kept as a sign of our love for Jesus, it is our judge and the list goes on. However, the one thing no one ever talked to me about was the idea that the law was a tutor that held sway over me until I came into adult hood. I was never taught that the law, when viewed as a standard of righteousness, shows us our failure and drives us into the hands of God where salvation reigns. I was never taught that Christ is the great law keeper and perfect law keeping is accredited to me when I accept Him so that I am declared righteous.
I think this notion that God only loves us because Jesus saves us needs to be revisited and thought about carefully. Maybe the cross is where love meets sorrow and wins out. Maybe, Jesus died for us because of the love of the Father, the Spirit, and Himself but not because the Father had to have His wrath poured out on Jesus. Maybe the cross is simple love in action that sets us free from the powers of this world to journey into a world of love and grace.
The book of Galatians is one of those books that once you begin to read it you can’t put it down. I’ve read the book over and over as well as a great deal of the top fifteen commentaries written on the book. And here is what I’ve found. A Christian life that is in Christ is not a life of striving, trying harder, attempting to keep law, but a life that rejoices in the fruit of the Spirit. (See Galatians 5) But it is the first five verses of chapter six that put things into perspective.
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.
4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride.
5 For all must carry their own loads.
Let’s quickly look at what Paul is saying here about the life of a follower of Jesus. We shouldn’t be quick to find fault with others when they sin but love the person and in gentleness try to encourage the person. Most often in the Christian church we disfellowship the person. We are quick, as I have been, to make excuses for my sins but quick to recognize them in others. Instead Paul reminds us to take care of the log in our own eye before we go hunting for splinters in others.
We are encouraged to lift each other up and support each other when we struggle by carrying each other’s burdens. Notice what he says, “and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” You want to be a law keeper then love others and encourage them when they struggle and reflect the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Next Paul reminds us to be humble because when compared to God we are nothing. How easy it is for us to crave recognition for our good works, words, or actions, but instead we need to realize that all we do and say is really about the glory of God and we are simply privileged to be called God’s children.
Paul finally reminds us to test our own work instead of our neighbors if we honestly wish to be free of pride. When all is said and done we are responsible for what we have done with our life and not how we stack up against anyone else’s.
Back to Bertrand Russell for a moment. I wonder how he would have responded to Christianity if he had encountered people living according to Galatians six? Yes, we have sinful natures and we fail and our sins come out of that nature. However, we are also free in Christ to love, care and live a life dedicated to Him. The fact that we may wish to live closer to His love, appreciate Him more fully and desire to walk further and further away from those things that defeat us is not legalism. It is just the grace of God at work in the heart.