This is Catherine Segars, that drama girl, and today I want to address a burning cultural issue and bring a Christ-like perspective.
Modern Day Mary
We were pulling into the parking lot of my church when the DJ mentioned a controversy surrounding a burgeoning Christian recording artist. Apparently, she had appeared on a popular daytime talk show and there was an uproar about it.
Now, I’m not exactly in the know when it comes to pop culture. With five kids, I have far too much laundry to keep up with such things. So, I was waiting to hear what had happened on the show that caused such a stink. What did she do?
Then I realized, with sinking dread, she didn’t do anything. Nothing happened. There was no incident, per say. Her crime was just showing up. Because, you see, the talk show host is gay.
My heart sank.
Are we reading the same Bible?
Now I know what Scripture says about that issue and let me be clear, I’m not here to debate or deny that.
But who did Jesus hang out with?
Let me rephrase that . . . Who did Jesus get criticized and killed for hanging out with?
My Bible says prostitutes. My Bible says adulterers and tax collectors.
Who did Jesus pick to start the church? Peter. An ear-slasher and three-time Christ-deniar.
Who did He choose to write most of the New Testament? Paul. A terrorist.
I marvel that this needs to be said, but apparently it does—In order for Mary Magdalene to receive the life-changing grace of Jesus Christ . . . He had to come in contact with her. He had to speak to her.
Jesus treated this demon-possessed prostitute with compassion and dignity, despite her life choices. He treated her with love before her heart changed, while she was still living in sin. When all the religious leaders of His day walked by her without saying a word, afraid that they would be tainted by her immorality, Jesus didn’t. He embraced her. And His love changed her. And He vowed to tell her story wherever His was told.
But she never would have had a story to tell if He hadn’t first reached her with His love and kindness.
Now, I am not suggesting that we should compromise correct theology and disregard God’s standard. I’m not. Jesus didn’t do that. But He knew that in order for people to receive what is right, they must first experience His radical love.
Jesus did not address the fact that Zacchaeus was a thief first. No, first He went to Zacchaeus’ house and had dinner with him when no one else would.
Jesus did not address the fact that the woman at the well was in sexual sin first. Huh-uh. First, He had a conversation with this filthy foreigner and offered her living water when no one else would.
Jesus did not address the “woman caught in adultery’s” sin first. No, first Jesus defended her against the hypocrites, clinging to the stipulations of the law, when no one else would.
It was the Pharisees who insisted on being correct first. Not Jesus.
It is self-righteousness that insists on being right first. Not love.
Love shows compassion first. It offers dignity first. It builds trust first. It genuinely cares first. It is patient and humble and kind FIRST. Then, and only then, can love show what is correct.
This is Jesus’ example. It should be ours as well.
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
What does a Christian accomplish by refusing to have a public conversation with a non-Christian? Certainly not the kind faith that our Lord exemplifies. Jesus cared nothing, no, scratch that . . . less than nothing for His reputation. He cared about people. All people, of every race, nationality, gender, orientation, and sinful persuasion.
We don’t deny who God is by sitting down with sinners. We deny who God is when we don’t.
And let us not forget, WE ARE SINNERS.
Saved by a God who could have stayed in heaven with the glorified and sanctified, but He didn’t. Instead, He chose to hang out with us. He chose to come down here and get dirty. He put our dirt all over Himself so that we could be clean.
How, then, can we insist on others being clean before we will honor them with our presence? How?
The Apostle Paul, that Christian-killing terrorist, made it very clear that as Christ’s followers, we are not to judge the world. That is God’s job. Not ours.
Now, we do hold those within the church accountable and humbly point them to God’s standard, but we are to LOVE those outside the church, just as He does. We are to speak to them in public, like He did. We are to defend them against hypocritical attacks, like He did. We are to converse with them in their homes, like He did. And, dare I say, if the opportunity presents itself, we should talk to them on their talk shows, like He would?
All with the hope that maybe, just maybe, their hearts will be softened enough to receive His Truth. To receive His salvation.
There is a term in journalism, I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s called “burying the lead.” It happens when the most important part of the story is hidden so deep that it might as well be six feet under.
As Christians, if we ever want to reach the lost in our culture, we’ve got to stop burying the lead.
Let’s be clear about this because Jesus certainly was: the lead of the Gospel is God’s overwhelming LOVE. Not His LAW. That is not to say that God’s standard isn’t important. It is. But it’s not the lead.
It is the kindness of God that draws us to repentance, not His standard. If God’s kindness drew us, why then do we want to use His standard to draw others?
That is NOT how it works.
His standard purifies those who have first been drawn by His kindness. His standard will injure those who have not.
Kindness doesn’t deny Truth. God’s love doesn’t deny a standard. His standard exists to protect us from what harms us. The standard is itself an act of love; it should never be used to harm those whom God loves.
Without His love, we couldn’t possibly live by His standard. Nor would we want to.
Without His love, His standard is nothing more than a weapon.
Yes, you heard that right.
Love without Truth is a lie. But Truth without love is a weapon.
We don’t reach the world from a distance with sandwich boards and megaphones. We reach the world by having real conversations and showing real concern. That doesn’t mean that we water down Truth, but it does mean that we offer Truth AFTER expressing our genuine love, like Christ did. Christ went to Zacchaeus’ house, and spoke to the woman at the well, and defended the woman caught in adultery FIRST. He loved them BEFORE addressing the issue of their sin.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-2, NIV)
In this passage, Paul clearly tells us that we can be right theologically, and yet still be all-kinds-of wrong if we do not love. He tells us not to weaponize the Gospel by presenting it without first showing compassion. He tells us not to bury the lead. If we do, we may be right on paper, but wrong, wrong, oh-so-wrong in practice.
We must LOVE people first. Then humbly LEAD them to the Truth. Like Christ did.
The world is filled with modern day Marys, and such were some of us. No, no, no! Such were ALL of us. There is no spiritual high ground here. Mary is waiting for the kindness of God to be extended so that her story can be told.
Will we be like Jesus, or will we be like the Pharisees who killed Jesus?
If His own followers won’t extend His love and kindness, if we won’t sit down with a non-believer and risk our almighty reputation, then who will?
And who, then, will be saved?
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