“ 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
So often, we are so focused on not condoning (or appearing to condone) sin, that we've lost the real message of Jesus. A message of reaching out and loving others. A message of hope and peace to the broken and lost.
Even Jesus himself was accused of being a sinner, a glutton, a drunkard, and many other things simply because of the fact that he kept company with “that sort of person”. Many were horrified that he let a prostitute wash his feet.
Jesus was not worried about false labels, he was concerned with reaching the hearts of those around Him, and touching their lives with His love and salvation. It seems we as Christians are so afraid of being labeled wrongly, that we go out of our way not to associate with the very people we are called to reach out to. Or we strive to explain our interactions with them so much that they end up not wanting anything to do with US.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor?” he told the story of what we call the Good Samaritan. The ending moral being, our neighbor is not only the person we live next to in our physical house, or the people we go to church with, or the nice cashier we like to chat with. Our neighbor is every person we come in contact with, even if they are an enemy. It would have been acceptable for the Samaritan to leave the man where he laid in the dirt, for the cultural divide was fierce. Instead, he chose to show love for his “neighbor,” in the same way he would care for his family or his own self.
[Jesus asked] “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37
It is not our job to be the condemnation of God to those around us, but rather to have mercy on them. Certainly, do not change the gospel, but even Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but to bring salvation. How can anyone believe in the love of God if they aren't seeing it in me, who claims to be His child?
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Luke 19:1-7
Imagine if Jesus had said, “Zacchaeus, come down from there, I am going to your house. But first I want you to know that I absolutely am against the terrible way you have been stealing from everyone and the wicked way you've been living.”
Stating such a thing would have started off on an antagonistic foot, and probably would have angered Zacchaeus. Jesus never would have even reached the point of being able to touch Zacchaeus' heart. But he made no such declaration. Surely making some such statement would have appeased the minds of those so concerned about his being “the guest of a sinner,” but Jesus did not seem the slightest bit worried about such accusations.
Jesus told [the Samaritan woman], “Go, call your husband and come back.”
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” John 4:16-20
Again, imagine if Jesus had condemned her for her sins. Rather than stating even his opinion on her life, he simply told the truth of what she'd done. Condemnation toward her would only have turned her away, just as it now turns people away.
Certainly, there is a time and a place for taking a hard line against sinful behavior, but too often, we heap condemnation on others for the benefit of our reputation and call it “telling the truth in love.”
How can I reach out to the lost around me if I am too afraid of being labeled “one of them”? How can I love others if I have to explain every interaction with drawing a line against their life decisions?
How can I show Christ to a dying world when I am petrified at the opinions of my fellow Christians?