“Nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against, when we judge the wounded.” (Jesus, Friend of Sinners, Casting Crowns)
I recently started an in-depth study of the book of Psalms. In addition to daily readings in Psalms, I’m reading a fabulous devotional called “Prayer, Praise & Promises: A Daily Walk Through The Psalms” by Warren Wiersbe. I didn’t want my study to take all year, so I’m reading four days worth of Wiersbe’s book at a time. I tell you all this because you will probably see more posts based on Psalms in the coming weeks.
Recently, I studied Psalm 9, a great victory Psalm written by David. There is a lot of great truth in this Psalm: we should praise God for who He is with our whole heart; when we are in God’s will, God is on our side, ruling from His throne. But there is an undercurrent in this Psalm that really struck me, especially since we’ve just ended another nasty election season. God will take care of judging the evil in the world in His time. This is not my battle, it is God’s, and one of the worst things I can do is take that judgment into my own hands. David asks for God to “let not man prevail.” God tells us that He is the one who will repay (“Vengeance is mine”) in Deuteronomy 32:35.
That Word is in tension with the tendency of Christians to trumpet “the duty to stand up for our rights” and “fight for the faith.” This sounds good and is based on the biblical instruction to be a light to the world and not hide our light under a bushel (Matt. 5:15). There are certainly times where we must be speak out about our faith, but many tend to be vocal only in denouncing sin and sinners. Eventually this idea is taken to a non-Christian and unbiblical extreme in the form of picketers at military funerals or similar disgusting displays. I often feel like “the church” (referring to the body of genuine Christians nationwide) needs a PR person because I get the impression that the unchurched more closely associate us with hate-filled picketers at a funeral than with people lovingly serving at a soup kitchen in the name of Jesus.
And that’s too bad, especially because I’m probably part of the problem. I do a whole lot less “fixing” of sin and injustice than I do worrying about it and talking about it while doing nothing. But God doesn’t need me to fight His battle. He is going to take care of the wickedness of the world. What He has clearly commanded me to do is to go and make disciples, teach them about God (Matt. 28:16-20) and to love one another. (John 13:34) It is illuminating that during Jesus’ earthly ministry as recorded in the gospels, the only sin and sinners he railed against were the religious leaders who had distorted the faith. When given the opportunity, he spoke gently to both the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well who was living with a man she wasn’t married to, and he went to feasts and parties with those the religious folks shunned as “sinners and tax collectors.” (Luke 15:2) Jesus also spent no time speaking out against the pagan and oppressive Roman government of the day, but harshly criticized those in charge of the Jewish temple.
I am not in the slightest advocating that sin be coddled or tolerated or ignored, although I better start with the guy in mirror. I think I had better deal with the sins in my own life before I start making sure others know about their sins. What I am trying to say is that when the shouts of what the church is against drown out the gospel message that tells a lost world that God sent His Son to die for them because He loved us while we were yet sinners, (Rom. 5:8) we become stumbling blocks for those that God is calling to Himself because we are trying to complete a mission that is His alone. (Matt. 23:13)
So for everyone’s benefit, here are just a few reminders of what the church is for:
John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Matt. 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
John 6:35-37: “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
Luke 19:10: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
It’s time the church was known less for judging other people’s sin and more for demonstrating love.