“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”
– 1 Corinthians 5:12
Yesterday I was browsing one of my social networking pages when a suggested connection popped up. The familiar face warmed my heart and I smiled. It was a friend of mine from college. We had continued our friendship for years afterwards and I even took my family out of town to watch a play he directed several years ago.
How had we lost touch?
The smile slowly faded when I thought about the events that transpired…..
In 2008 California had a major political milestone in the battle over gay marriage. Proposition 8, was placed on the ballot by strong opponents of same-sex marriage. Living in the state capitol, Sacramento, it was impossible to escape the tension and debate over the issue, even on Sunday. Our church passed out “Prop 8” signs, bumper stickers, organized rallies, and other grassroots efforts to ensure the ballot measure passed. It was reiterated that as “good Christians” it was our duty to take a stand and make our position on gay marriage known. I posted signs on my lawn and passionately made my support known.
That good friend I mentioned earlier? Well….he is homosexual.
When I began my Prop 8 campaigning, it broke his heart. He wasn’t surprised about my values, he always knew and respected where I stood with my faith, what surprised him was my judgment. What followed was a dispute about our positions – I asserted my beliefs, he asserted his. We both dug in our heels and before I knew it a long-term friend was gone.
At the time, I thought I was completely in the right. We are to take a stance against the things of this world, right? Well, look at Paul’s statement above in 1 Corinthians. What do you think? Nowhere in scripture does it say for us to use our faith like a spiritual baton to beat others down Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians are a reminder of that.
Growing up as an Air Force child, my mother made her expectations of me pretty clear. I remember my first experience in a public school when we moved off the military base. I thought the children were insane! To me, they seemed to have no discipline and I sat in the corner of the classroom disturbed by their behavior and counting the hours until I was picked up. The problem was that I was applying military standards to children who were oblivious of the standards I was measuring them against. I was criticizing them for losing at a game they hadn’t even signed up to play. This is what Paul is speaking to in this scripture and this is what we do when we try to apply Biblical truths to those who are non-believers.
"The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables." - Mark 4:11
That’s not our role. We use scripture to keep those inside the “Kingdom family” on track. We have the same rule book. Those outside? They are God’s responsibility to correct.
So does that mean I am required to support and condone things I don’t agree with? Absolutely not, but what is does mean is that I am required to walk in love.
Here’s the reality of it: I am not God’s attorney – I don’t need to argue His case. And when the discussion with unbelievers becomes less about loving and more about “winning” a theological point, I cut off God’s light in their life, and mine. And what glory does that bring?
Condemnation and arguing are horrible evangelism strategies because you’re trying to speak a spiritual truth to human flesh. That’s just silly. It was the Spirit, not my reasoning, that drew me to God. Why would I try to change God’s strategy when it comes to others?
So if I’m not an attorney, what am I to the world?
What they need to encounter is my story. You know what that story is?
I am redeemed through God’s grace.
I am forgiven.
I make mistakes.
I am not perfect.
But God loves me.
And He loves you.
And since He loves you, so do I.
That is the testimony that draws people toward Him.
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” - John 6:44
So, let God lead.
Let God love.
I sent my friend a message last night asking for us to reconnect. He accepted. I am so humbled by his forgiveness.
This time around my prayer is that I am the same type of friend to him that Jesus was to me. I plan to get it right this time. No bumper stickers. No lawn signs. The only banner I will wave is the one God waves over me.
Let’s pray: Father God, help us to be a light in dark places. Help us to show others that same grace and mercy that You poured out on us when we didn’t deserve it. Your word reminds us in Ephesians 2:8 that it is by grace we have been saved, through faith and not from ourselves. The grace we received is the gift of God. So, let us express that same love to others. In our words and actions, let others see more of you and less of us so that they can experience the same amazing love and grace that we have found in You. In Jesus name. Amen.