Over the past months and years, morality has been on the cultural menu and we Christians have often served up a good dose of guilt without much gospel. Recently, as a young lady I know came to meet Jesus, I sat and chatted through the questions she had about her newly discovered faith. It saddened me to hear that some of her first concerns about becoming a Christian were questions over whether she needed to disown her homosexual friends or if she needed to condemn women who had aborted their children; it made me think that somewhere the church has gone terribly wrong. I stopped and looked—and saw the logs piling up: the logs in my own eyes that have gone unnoticed; the logs blocking the door to the church (Matthew 7:3-5).
I stopped and looked—and saw the logs piling up: the logs in my own eyes that have gone unnoticed; the logs blocking the door to the church
It took me back to a conversation I had with a friend in my teens, who had snuck off to have an abortion. I remember her questioning me as to whether Jesus would ever forgive her. As she shared the depth of pain she felt of having no-one to turn to when she found herself pregnant and alone, it saddened me that the Church hadn’t been a hospital and haven for her. Rather than a light on a hill proclaiming the kingdom of heaven, it had become something cold and abstract; a symbol of judgment from a vengeful God.
Sin and a Holy God
In Australia, the outcry and disgust voiced over homosexual marriage and the legalisation of abortion, have become a great opportunity for the devil to portray churches as places of condemnation. Instead of proclaiming the gospel—a free gift for all who in repentance turn to the Son—many churches have either spent their energies condemning people’s sin or, in the case of liberalism, endorsing it.
Meanwhile, at Bible studies and in conversations over coffee, it becomes apparent that many Christians I know are just downright confused. How do we love our homosexual friends without cheering their mistaken ideas about sexuality? How do we love the woman who has chosen abortion and invite her to meet Jesus? How do we share the reality of sin and hell, when it makes even those of us who believe in it uncomfortable? How do we express our love for our children when they choose to shack-up with their partner and have sex outside of marriage? What difference does the gospel really make to our everyday lives?
Purchased at a Price
As I ask these questions alongside the person in the pew next to me, I glance down at the white robes given to me; costly as they were purchased by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-14). I am reminded that too quickly, I have forgotten my hero; my Saviour who purchased my salvation. Like the Pharisees, I have been priding myself on tiny virtues—congratulating myself for not swearing in the meeting; for remembering my quiet time; for offering to pray for a friend going through a rough time. I have watered down the call to repentance in my own life and turned Christianity into a list of dos and don’ts.
I have compared my sin to theirs: their addiction to alcohol is nothing like my addiction to Facebook; their sleeping around is nothing like me watching that raunchy new series on Netflix.
I have justified my own behaviour in order to keep my beautiful mask in place—when actually my mask mirrors the beautiful whitewashed tombs of the lives of those Pharisees who have gone before me. I can’t help but admit that this hypocrisy is the product of a slow fade; a general watering down of biblical truth—a quiet acceptance of my own sin.
Check the Log
So how can we do better? How can we learn to be tougher on our own sins and more gracious to those outside?
Speaking personally, I think part of the answer is for us to start paying more attention to our ‘comfortable sins’—the ones that no one sees; the ones we can get away with—for the sake of the gospel. I mean things like gossip—talking about other people’s sins and failures under the guise of a prayer point. I mean giving financially to the point of sacrifice. I mean taking time to care for the downtrodden, even when we would prefer to be chatting easily with our friends over a cuppa after church.
I think part of the answer is for us to start paying more attention to our ‘comfortable sins’—the ones that no one sees; the ones we can get away with
I also need to find a way to think more deeply about God’s grace toward me. I was recently listening to a podcast, where the interviewee was moved to tears at the thought Jesus died for her. This was a multi-published author, a woman who had impacted many for the gospel; who was held in high esteem by many around her. Yet this woman, with all her followers and influence, recognised her sinful depravity before a holy God and the sweet grace extended to her and it moved her. I immediately felt challenged- do I see myself in this light?
So quickly and so subtly, I forget the reality that I am bought at a price, a costly price that took God giving up all his heavenly glory, coming to earth, being tortured and killed for my sin to bring me to God. I want to seek repentance and heed the call to Spirit-given holiness. I want to learn to pray like David: “search me oh God and know my heart.” I want to become someone who digs into God’s word and is renewed by it (not conforming to the pattern of the world, but being transformed; c.f. Romans 12:2).
Dear Heavenly Father, As I speak out into the darkness, may it be the gospel invitation that is heard most clearly. May I know and tell that I too am a sinner in need of repentance. May I be able to share how I met a Saviour who offered forgiveness even when he was slowly dying on the cross. May I be like the sinful woman inviting my friends and family to, “come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29).
And please let my life and the life of my church show a Spirit-empowered transformation. Save us from Pharisaic religiosity. Teach us to live in repentance and change us into the image of your Son.