"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Is It Condemnation, Compassion, or Celebration?

Last night on television I saw contestants at an Oklahoma transgender beauty pageant interviewed by a reporter regarding their feelings on the President's ban of transgenders serving in the military. Recently, I spoke to a crowd in Enid where two married lesbians held hands and sat on the front row. Behind them, a transgendered female turned male sat with (his) girlfriend. In the room there were also a few "couples" who lived together and deemed themselves "companions for life," but they did not wish to get "married" in the traditional sense. I also knew of a person or two in the room who "looked normal" from a Christian perspective in terms of their marriage and traditional family values, but secretly they were struggling with their own issues of sexual immorality, including secret girlfriends/boyfriends.

As a follower of Jesus Christ who is called to shepherd other Jesus followers, how should I respond to transgendered persons, homosexual couples, adulterous men and women, and other persons I meet whose behaviors are contradictory to the revealed moral standards of Jesus in the New Testament?

It seems I have three possible responses to sin.

If I view sin as a matter of personal integrity, another person's sin is deemed intentional rebellion against God, and I'll give to the sinner my condemnation.

If I believe another's sin is a matter of personal disability, which means I see the sinner as actually lacking something positive or good, similar to a person whose legs or arms are missing is "disabled," then I'll give to the sinner my compassion.

If however, I believe another person's actions are his or her personal business and nobody answers to God for anything, then sin doesn't exist and all actions are simply a matter of diversity and I'll give to all persons I meet my celebration for their courage to be different and/or unique.

Viewing another's actions as a matter of integrity, disability, or diversity will determine whether a Christian responds to other people with condemnation, compassion or celebration.

So which is it?

I believe every Christian should approach sinners - regardless of how egregious their sin - with compassion because sin is evidence of a disability. 

We are not called to celebrate sinners. Those who don't know God celebrate sinners. We are also not called by God to condemn sinners. Those who think they are God condemn sinners. God alone can condemn sinners, and we are to wait for His judgment, not create our own. He tells us,
"Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21)
God is our Creator. He alone can know the "end from the beginning," as well as the thoughts and intentions of one of his creatures. God tells us to leave condemnation to Him.

I believe we are to see sinners as disabled people in need of compassion.

Sinners are lacking something positive and good, and the only way they'll ever find healing is to have something given to them which they lack.

So what is it that all sinners lack?

Real life and real love.

Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life, and have life to its fullest" (John 10:10). That means people without Jesus don't have real life, and due to this lack, their lives are not being lived to their fullest.  Once they receive this life through the actions of a loving God through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, they'll be able to respond to the commandment of Jesus "to love on another as I have loved you" (John 13:34).

All life (zōḗ), throughout the universe, is derived from God. Life always and only comes from God and is sustained by God because God is the only self-existent Life throughout the universe.  Man lost this life in the beginning, and all of Adam and Eve's descendants are in need of God's grace to restore that which was lost. This is the basic meaning of the word "redemption." Adam's fall crippled us all. The Last Adam gives us our legs back.

That's love. Jesus Christ died to restore what we lost. He came to intimately share the gift of life and love with disabled people.

The lack of life and love is worse than the lack of legs. The absence of inner satisfaction is far uglier than any external decimation. Sin is a the result of this internal disability. No life and love from God will drive disabled people to everything under the sun to find healing. But the light and life they seek is being illuminated by the wrong sun. The Son of God heals the disabled. 

To condemn the soul's sores which surface through various behaviors of disabled people is to miss the real issue. To celebrate the soul's sores which surface through various behaviors of disabled people is to miss the real issue as well.

What a sinner lacks in life is life. What a sinner lacks in life is love. Without real life and real love, there is no life lived to its fullest. Only God gives the life and the love that lasts.

Oh sure, someone may "think" he's living, and may even get angry when you say he or she is disabled. But just a few moments of self-reflection will reveal to each sinner that any life that "overflows" (superfluous) from within, the kind of life that gives every "advantage" in this life, is absent. 

The Greek word translated "fullest" in John 10:10 is also translated with the English words superfluous and advantage.

Jesus came that people without life might have life, a life that flows from within, giving every advantage in a dark world. These advantages include purpose, inner contentment, personal satisfaction, a clear conscious, and a host of other soul-satisfying blessings that a spiritually disabled person lacks.

So next time you see someone whose moral sores are bleeding and oozing puss that seem repugnant to you, move toward the sinner in compassion, realizing that there is something missing. The sinner is disabled. 

7 comments:

Pege' said...

Wade, Even the believers in Christ are "DISABLED". We cannot look at a sinner( spiritually disabled person), and not have compassion upon them for I AM THEM!!! With out Christ, I can do NOTHING!!! ALL My righteousness is a filthy rags. I cannot even muster the compassion and love in which you speak of from myself. It would be proud of me to think "I AM ABLED" because I have Christ and since "YOU" do not....you are DISABLED!!

We all are disabled.


Wade Burleson said...

Amen, Pege!

Anonymous said...

Total agreement. Only 2 caveats, born of our time among a group that later began celebrating the sin, is that being "spiritually disabled" is not to be equated with victimhood, thereby to be coddled in the disability, and that sometimes the sin is a very deliberate choice.

I'll give two examples: one was a dear friend, a woman attracted to other women. She would let us know that up front SO THAT we would not become a "near occasion of sin" for her. She was asking us to help her not go down the path that leads to destruction. She would tell off in a New York minute anyone suggesting that "since she was born that way" she had a free pass to break God's law. For her it WAS a disability every bit as much as diabetes is a disability for a died in the wool chocoholic. No condemnation for her, just compassion.

On the other hand, every once in a while you run into someone who actively chooses evil. They usually make the evening news. You know the type--good family surrounding them, good community, but they decide they want to know what it feels like to_______insert child rape or torturous murder or some truly evil event. Not done in a psychotic state. Not done in a fit of rage. Done simply to sample some new "kick."

When that happens, we are reminded that while we are never to condemn people, for that is God's role should condemnation be called for, we are clearly given the responsibility to condemn some actions.

Therein lies the rub today. If you say spitting on the sidewalk is gross, some spitter will jump up to yell and scream that you are condemning them.

It is a fine line. We must treat all people with compassion even as we condemn some actions.

Linda

Christiane said...

I see Our Lord as 'the Great Physician'. :)
And I see Him as 'the Good Shepherd'.

I think a profound lesson from the Gospels of Our Lord is that God found no favor with the Pharisee's behavior in the temple, and we are not to 'point the finger' to belittle 'that other sinner' in comparison with ourselves.
It must be true that the greatest of all sins is 'pride', which blinds us to our own great need for God's mercy; the same 'pride' that leads us into much sinful labeling of AND contempt for 'those other sinners'

Loved your post, WADE

an old Irish blessing: May you ever be given to drink deeply from the well of the Holy Spirit

Aussie John said...

Wade,

Absolutely!!

It has been my conviction for many years that as we look upon another's sin we need to do so as one who bears the wounds of one's own sin. Only as an acknowledged sinner can we truly understand the wounding power of sin. The old adage comes into play: When I point my finger at another, I have three pointing back at me!

I suppose I have functioned with a rewording of your statement,"I believe every Christian should approach sinners - regardless of how egregious their sin - with compassion because sin is evidence of severe wounding".

Nancy2 said...

It's so simple....... hate the sin, but love the sinner......... like Jesus does for us all.

RRR said...

Great post, Wade, with so many truths that we must strive to acknowledge and live by.

Interesting thing these days, as I believe "Linda" alluded to; when we refuse to accept sinful behavior as being normal and righteous, we are portrayed as being those who "condemn" and who are positioning themselves as God. There is a difference in rejecting sinful behavior and condemning it.

I do not intend, nor desire, to approach anyone and point out areas of their life that might be broken. I must offer the healing power and love of Christ without reserve. However, when approached by others who insist I support sinful behavior or testify that it is not sin, of course I cannot do that.

As I believe your post promotes, we must indeed feel and exhibit compassion for all of those we encounter who are struggling in sin, recognizing that all of us are unworthy of God's grace and do not acquire it through any merit of our own.