The church is becoming timid, it seems to me, in the face of sin. The “do not judge” verses are trotted out at regular intervals, along with the words “grace” and “love.” But I fear that those verses and those words have been twisted into human form rather than left in their divine state, and the effects are frightening.
Do Not Judge
When a leader or a loved one (sometimes the same person) chooses to sin–whether it’s sexual sin or unbiblical divorce or deceitfulness–we can’t afford to hold our tongues in the name of not judging him. The Bible is clear that we are not to behave as if we ourselves are perfect and have some sort of moral superiority over others. We are definitively admonished not to “cast stones;” whether they are literal or figurative stones makes little difference. We have no right or authority to condemn one another to hell, to make pronouncements on one another’s relationship with God, or to position ourselves as perfect in contrast to others.
But we are also clearly called to the duty of holding one another accountable for our actions. We are told that “iron sharpens iron” and I have a sneaking suspicion that if iron had the ability to feel pain, the sharpening process would not be a pleasant one. Sin is deceptively pleasurable, making it unlikely that the one who has surrendered to it will dig themselves out on their own. It is wrong to remain silent when “there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
A friend pointed out to me the other day that she could not find any passage in the Bible that referred to “grace” as a human action or characteristic. We have so distorted the word, we’ve made it synonymous with “tolerance.” Grace is actually much more amazing (ha–I didn’t even do that on purpose). Grace is almost indefinable to our finite, sinful minds. It’s not about allowing each other room to goof up. That’s tolerance, which has its place. Grace is a supernatural attribute of God–the incomprehensible power of an absolutely perfect God to extend forgiveness to fallen people, even when He is well aware that their falling will only continue, day after day, until they die.
The real puzzle with grace is that it’s free, but at the same time, there is a requirement attached: repentance. I liken it to having a coupon or a gift certificate for something–let’s use a donut. The certificate is only realized when you accept it, and take it into the donut shop to redeem it. In the same way, grace is only realized when you accept it and take it to the feet of Jesus, walking through the door of repentance to receive it.
We, as humans, cannot extend real, divine grace. We can imitate it, and we should. But we have to imitate God’s process as well: for grace to be extended, repentance must first be in place. Otherwise, all we’re really doing is exercising a cheap form of tolerance that doesn’t do anyone any good.
If your friend were having a fine old time, splashing around in a swimming hole, but you saw a gator approaching, you’d warn him–probably loudly–to get the heck out. Perhaps he wouldn’t believe there really was a gator, and he wouldn’t heed your warning. Are you going to walk away? Or are you going to get louder, and get busy hauling him out, even if he kicks and screams and splashes you all the way to the shore?
“Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.” ~ C.S. Lewis It is simply not loving to silently allow someone to destroy themselves, even if they’re thoroughly enjoying the process.