I liked what "Betsy" [fictitious name] had to say because I think she really struck at the heart of an issue that seems to face many Christians. The "sin stigma" that is assigned to homosexuals. I'd have to admit, I generally handle this issue with kid gloves, myself, because it can be a very touchy subject among Christians. [Oops, I guess I'm taking off the gloves.]
Betsy was complaining about a relative who had recently become a Christian.
Apparently, before the relative became a Christian she was close friends with a gay couple, and the gay couple had done a lot for Betsy's relative. Helping her with school tuition, among other things [and it sounded like a lengthy list]. You see, gay people can be nice people and do nice things, Christians simply do not have the market on nicety.
Anyway, back to the story. Betsy's relative felt because the couple is gay and living a sinful lifestyle she should just cut them out of her life and refuse to see them anymore.
Betsy was concerned that this is just the sort of action, on the part of a Christian, that gives all Christians a bad name. I agreed with her but, interjected that Betsy's relative would mature as a Christian, at some point, and come to realize the error of her thinking. And, that's when Betsy made a very important point. The pain and hurt to the gay couple that was caused by the attitude of the fledgling Christian, by her complete rejection of them as people, as no longer deserving of her love and gratitude after all they had done for her, was not going to just go away while the new Christian "matured."
Christians like the, some might call, platitude: "Hate the sin but love the sinner," whether you think it is a platitude or not, there is huge wisdom in the statement.
I've got a little tract. It's titled, "For the thinking mind INTELLIGENCE TEST." There are 8 questions, or riddles, on the test. Number 7 reads:
"A man once broke all of the Ten Commandments. He lied, stole (the value of the article is irrelevant), lusted -- which the Bible says is "to commit adultery in his heart," failed to love God above all else, failed to honor his parents as well as to keep the Sabbath holy. He hated (which God sees as murder), failed to honor God's name, and he also "coveted," which means to want other people's things. How could God, who is perfect and holy (and therefore by His very nature must punish transgression of His Law), forgive him freely, and yet justice still be done? How can the man avoid Hell and go to Heaven?"
And here's the answer, in part, from the back of the tract:
"...He (the man) needs God's mercy. When Jesus died on the cross, He took the punishment for our sins, satisfying eternal justice and at the same time demonstrating God's incredible love for sinful humanity. The moment the man repents and puts his faith in the Savior, God will forgive his sins and give him the gift of everlasting life. He then should read the Bible daily and obey what he reads, showing himself to be genuine in his faith...."
I think some Christians confuse the Bible's statement found in Matthew 7, verse 16, “You will know them by their fruits," as an excuse to judge other people but, what that scripture is saying, in context, is to beware of false prophets, and giving instruction on how to identify them, not giving Christians the go ahead to judge people who do not bear "good fruit" as unworthy of God's forgiveness. In fact, in the very same chapter of Matthew, we read in verses 1-5:
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."
Keeping it all in context, we must also look at verse 6, which says:
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
Again, however, we need to consider carefully and prayerfully before we decide [judge?] who should be labeled as a dog, or who should be labeled as swine....
Still reading in Matthew chapter 7, we find "the golden rule," always one of my favorites. It's found in verse 12:
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. "
Meditate on these things:
Romans 3:9-10 says:
"9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE...."
Ephesians 2:8-10 and 12-14 says:
"8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ..., and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace...."
I think I'm right, I think this young Christian will grow in her walk with Christ, she will mature but, there may be people hurt in the process. That is why older, more mature Christians must offer direction to new, immature Christians. [And I and other, now more "mature" Christians, may have hurt people in the process of maturing in Christ, as well.]
I also think Betsy is exactly right. All Christians, whether each individual Christian is judgmental themselves or not, will be judged by non-Christians based on the actions of the most immature Christians they come into contact with, and based, sometimes, on the actions of those who claim to be Christians but, who may not, in reality, be true Christians [and whether those claiming to be Christians are true Christians or not is for God to judge, not me].
We, as Christians, have no business playing like we have the authority to judge others and the hearts of others. That authority belongs to God alone. How dare we, any of us, represent God as an unforgiving God, an unloving God! If Christians are, and I believe we are because that is what the Bible tells me, "...His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them," and if God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only Son to pay our sin debt for us, then we should be demonstrating the love of God as His representatives.
We truly can observe Christ-likeness and hate sin while demonstrating the love of Christ to people, for we are all sinners and yet, there are people we love, regardless of the sin in their lives, right? That is what Jesus came to do. That is what being "Christlike," at its core, should be. Jesus loved, forgave, and gave eternal life to prostitutes, eunuchs, tax collectors [who were hated in Bible times as thieves] and sinners. He hated the sin of depraved sexual activity of all kinds, including fornication, adultery and homosexuality but, He demonstrated His love for a world full of sinners when He died on the cross and rose again to prepare a place for believers in heaven.
By the way, just as an aside, I do believe there is one person the scripture calls each Christian to judge. Our own selves.
2 Corinthians 13:5:
"Keep examining yourselves to see whether you are continuing in the faith. Test yourselves! You know, don’t you, that Jesus the Messiah lives in you? Could it be that you are failing the test?"
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on Bible theology or interpretation of scripture. I am just a saved sinner like all the rest of the Christians in the world. If you are a Christian and you disagree with my interpretation of scripture regarding this issue, feel free to hash it out in the comment section. I promise to try not to judge you, and we might even learn something from each other along the way. ;)
Scripture source: "Biblos.com"
Tract source: www.raycomfort.com