Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Winning the War but Losing Hearts

Last week I had coffee with a friend who is intimately involved in pro-life ministry here in San Diego. Additionally, the Lord has placed her in classes at college where she has had the chance to build friendships with several homosexuals. I know that each of these ministries is very dear to her heart, and she intentionally considers how to glorify and obey the Lord in what can be very difficult and controversial contexts. She does so better than most Christians I know, maintaining both her commitment to the gospel and truth and also her deep love for the lost and desire for their salvation.

We attend different churches here, but both are very similar: conservative, reformed, dedicated to expository preaching. We love our churches, but as we were talking, we realized that over the past few months, we have been seeing the same weaknesses. Our churches are full of people who love the Lord and His gospel and truth. They desire to see His greatness proclaimed. 

But our churches are also full of people who do not always extend the grace of God to broken sinners. They like the sinners who have their act together. They want gay marriage outlawed, but don't want to minister to homosexuals who are contentedly living in their sins. They want abortion to be illegal, but rarely serve the young mother who doesn't know how she is going to provide for her precious baby. Don't get me wrong - this is a generalization and certainly isn't true of everyone. But the pattern remains.

I have been reading through Matthew and I have been struck by how Jesus loved the people that the Pharisees and other religious leaders weren't willing to love. He unashamedly spent time and built friendships with "tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 11:19).

He came to save sinners, not the righteous.

He came to proclaim liberty to the captives, not to the the free.

He came to redeem the lost, not the already-found.

He came to proclaim God's radical love to those who did not deserve it, not those who do.

He came for the sick, not the healthy.

In our zeal for truth and obedience have we forgotten the most basic truth of the gospel, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, even the foremost (1 Tim. 1:16)? Have we forgotten the grace and mercy of God that we have experienced, how He took our sin and bore the penalty that we deserved?

It's easy to love those who look like they have their lives together, and certainly, we ought to love and minister to them as well. But we display the power of the gospel in wonderful ways when we love with our words and actions those whom we disagree with most.

Do we declare sin to be sin? Absolutely. But we do so in order that we might proclaim the glorious and scandalous grace of God demonstrated through His Son. Jesus was absolutely committed to truth and the glory of God. But that led Him toward sinners and toward those whom the world despised. Does our commitment to truth do the same for us?

May the people of God be people who demonstrate love to the outcast, to the sinner, to the one who needs it the most. And may they do so that the world may know that our God is a God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, a God who redeems even the most wayward and broken of hearts, a God who has loved the unlovable through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

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