18 May 2005

A Contradiction

This post took me while. It's a hard subject for such a non-judgemental person like me. What's funny is that I'm so thoroughly opinionated but I only subject myself to the application of those opinions. Crazy, I know and I'll write more about that at a later time. The subject of this post was bantered around in other entries I've completed lately and seemed to be a recurring theme during some discussions I was having. It centers around the relatively modern proverb spouted by some in the religious community concerning how to deal with subjects, situations, or lifestyles of which they disapprove. The phrase is usually offered something like "Love the sinner, Hate the sin". One day I found myself offering this juicy morsel to an acquaintence that was struggling in a relationship. What stunned me upon reflection is that this is a stance which I don't particularly agree with. How did such an easy-going, accepting, loving guy as myself (I'll take a bow later. [wink]) find these words coming out of my mouth? In retrospect I think I wanted to offer this person some way, some handle, something they could use to make sense of their conflicting emotions and allow them to continue in their relationship. Evidently, I must not really have been giving them too much thought or attention if this crummy platitude is all I could come up with to offer. What a lousy friend, eh? During my quiet time as I reflected on my words, I wanted to understand my reasoning and frustration so as to be sure I had something better on tap the next time I'm called upon in such a situation. Here's a sample of the meandering journey to organize my thoughts on this subject.

The thoughts and intents of his heart are only evil continually. -- Gen. 6:5

Bottom line, we all suck. We all have capacity for evil, we are all fallen. In words the supernaturally sensitive would better understand: we all make choices that are hurtful to ourselves and others everyday. My dad always put it like this: "There are two things I know to be true. One, there is a God. And two, I am not it." Just knowing we are all sinners is enough to start unraveling this concept. But it didn't really address the point of the predicament did it? If we are all sinners why love at all? What would be the point? Not from a WWJD perspective, but from a practical, realistic, give-me-next-steps point of view.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? -- Rom. 2:4

One reason we as sinner are born into and are able to enjoy this world rather than wake up as an infant in hell, is the benevolence of God. In His infinity mercy and grace He has given us a chance, an opportunity to repent. To make things right. To choose wisely. Unfortunately we mostly just use it as a chance to sin some more. Well, what did you expect, we are sinners!

Whom the Lord loves He chastens. -- Heb. 12:6,7

It can take some maturity and experience to realize the truth of this. Any good parent knows you have to provide discipline, structure, and right expectations of your children. If we never feel consequences of our actions we never learn to make good choices. True moral behavior must be practiced to be perfected. The good news is the truth of behavior is a private thing between God and the individual. We have no call to pass judgement or enforce this moral code. If we truly love someone, we will want them to know the liberating freedom of knowing God as we do -- to experience the power of God to liberate us from the sins that do so easily beset us. However, urging them to simply change their choices, to give up their sins, to conform, isn't usually effective to that end. Far more effective is to love them as Christ loves. Then, by our own conduct and communication, we can model a better way. If by our actions we can uplift the right and the good, then sin will appear in its true colors. Conversely, if we do not model the love of Christ and give no evidence of His power in our lives, no amount of verbal haranguing will induce others to change their choices, to give up their sins, to conform to His likeness. Our behaviors will only drag us down further, for by beholding we become changed; whether we behold Christ in His purity or the sinner in his sinfulness. Applying the rule of love so succinctly easily allows us to discern a pragmatic stance towards this precept. However, there is a far more insidious issue to be addressed. Usually when we are flipping out this phrase we are only relating it to what we deem as open or obvious sin. Meanwhile we pass right over and neglect our less visible yet often more dangerous sins. We are quick to call down judgement when it's a clear case of violence or debauchery or whatever our hot-buttons happens to be. But when we come across the more subtlely nefarious problems like pride or prejudice, we just look the other way and make excuses.

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