Friday, September 21, 2007

Lifejackets and Boat Anchors

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” – Galatians 6:1-3

I’ve often heard it said that the church is a hospital for sinners. Yet, it often seems that we church members have some sort of HMO plan that no one else can apply for, and therefore, the admissions desk is closed.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of our true purpose – to love one another as Christ loved us. We’ve set in our hearts that we are something, when we ourselves are nothing. And through this judgmental heart, we’ve locked our church doors, built a mote, and raised the drawbridge!

I’ve seen so-called Christians in protests with signs that say “GOD HATES GAYS” and “GOD HATES ABORTIONIST” and “GOD HATES PORNOGRAPHERS” and so forth. What a lie straight from the pits of hell! God does not hate AT ALL! God himself is described as pure love (1 John 4:8). I need to clarify that this doesn’t mean he accepts homosexuality, abortion, porn or any other sins. These are sins as we read in God’s Holy Word. But God loves the sinner beyond the sin.

God’s word is clear on what we are to do “for” those - not “to” those - who are living in sin. First, we are to remain spiritual ourselves. The blind cannot lead the blind. If we’re suffering from the same ailment, we have no ability to help our brother or sister in Christ. Keep your spirit healthy by giving it generous doses of God’s word, Christian fellowship, and repentance (a bitter, but effective medicine).

Secondly, acting in a spirit of gentleness, we are to restore them to their original faith. We are not to point a finger, gossip behind their back, tell increasingly amusing lies to everyone we meet, nor grow the concerns larger by spreading the facts. When we work in gentleness, we bring restoration to their souls without breaking their fellowship.

Restoration is the return of something to a prior state, yet it is a destructive process as well. If I were to restore an old car to it’s original state, I’d first have to grind off all the rust. Grinding has to go deep beyond the paint and into the metal where the corrosion began. But as I grind away at the rust, I have to be careful not to break through the metal. Likewise, when helping a fallen saint return to their first love, gentleness is needed to not break their spirit and hope. Shouting hatred and criticism doesn’t solve the problem. Burning flags in their front yard doesn’t solve the problem. Making jokes behind their backs doesn’t solve the problem. Love is the only solution. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Lastly, we are to bear each others burdens. Christian friends in the midst of life’s storms are like lifejackets. They can pull you out of the worst situations. By showing you their concern and love, you realize you are not alone, and that you do have help when you need it. But you wouldn’t wait till you were on a sinking ship to buy a life jacket, would you? Don’t wait till you need Christian friends to make them. Surround yourself with those that can keep you strong in your faith, and that you can help in turn.

Likewise, those who want to criticize and be judgmental are like boat anchors, sinking us deeper into an ocean of discouragement. Being judgmental comes from an even deeper, uglier problem. It comes from a pride that tells you that you’re above the sin of the other person. Be reminded that in God’s eyes, all sins are equal. Sin equates to lawlessness, and all lawlessness is against God. James 2:10 says “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” To paraphrase Jesus, when you become perfect, feel free to cast the first stone.

Brothers and Sisters, it matters not that our congregation grows larger if our church members suffer from the diseases of sin. It matters not that our offering is growing if our congregation is dying from the burdens of life. It doesn’t matter not that our sanctuary is beautiful, if our pews are filled with ugliness in God’s eyes. God doesn’t need large churches, large offerings, or beautiful sanctuaries. What He needs and wants is our love for each other to strengthen His people.

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

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