Tuesday’s Truth – You Better Find Somebody to Love

Hello again! I know, I’m a day late with this one. It’s not even very long, so that’s not my excuse. Mostly, I was letting an idea marinate, to see if it was what was really supposed to go up this week. And I think that it is. Today I want to share with you something that seems so simple, but yet is often so difficult for Christians to put into practice. It’s one of the central features of Jesus’ life, and yet probably the one we least like to imitate. What is it? Simply put, it is loving sinners. I’m not interested in discussing specific lifestyles, actions, or choices that you or I believe are sinful. That’s not what’s at issue here. The sin isn’t the issue; our action is. Let’s use a bare-bones definition of a sinner – anyone who has not believed in salvation from sin through the death of Jesus. That’s who we’re talking about this week.


We like to say that we love sinners and want to bring them into God’s family. But many of us (I’ve been guilty of this too) only love people “outside the fold” in an abstract sort of way. We don’t go outside of the church and love them (socialize with them, care for them in times of need, encourage them, etc.); we hope that they will “get saved” so that they can be like us and then we can really love them.


Why do we do this? I think there are lots of different reasons. Sometimes we are afraid that if we associate with people who don’t follow all the same rules as us (this can even apply to other Christians sometimes, sadly) we will become “less saved” and fall into sin. If we associate with someone who uses profane language, we’ll start using it too. If we socialize with someone who drinks too much, we’ll become alcoholics as well. If we befriend someone who’s living with their boyfriend or girlfriend, we’ll become sexually immoral. While we certainly need to be on our guard to not be sucked into sin or worldliness, we are promised that we have not been given “a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:7) God doesn’t save us and then allow us to be weak and fragile in the face of sin. If that were true, wouldn’t He just transport each person to heaven as soon as they believed, because they would be too delicate to remain in the world? We need to have more faith in the spirit God has placed within us. If we are loving the lost in the way that God has called us to, we don’t have to worry about being dragged away from Him.


Sometimes we avoid people we see as sinners because we just don’t know how to interact with them. We may have been sheltered by our parents during childhood, and by our church during adulthood, that we feel that we have nothing in common with those outside the church. They don’t understand our “holy-speak” and we don’t understand the things that they enjoy or that they are upset by. This is a legitimate obstacle, but one that must be overcome if we want to claim that we really love the lost. How do we do it? A little bit at a time, I think. Look for ways to find common ground with the unsaved around you. If you were homeschooled, went to a Christian college, and then worked in a parachurch organization, you probably don’t want to start out trying to connect with a biker gang. Baby steps, folks. What about the neighbors who have kids the same age as your kids? Or maybe fellow athletes on a community team? Start by finding the things that are the same about you, and hopefully they’ll see the differences between you in a positive light that turns them towards Jesus. (Which means that you’ll have to be careful to make those differences positive!)


Finally, I think a huge reason we neglect to actively, tangibly love sinners around us is arrogance and pride. We have our list of the really bad sins, and people in our lives who commit one of those sins are just too “dirty” for us. We can’t be friends with that guy at work, because it might expose our children to the evil in the world if they found out how he lives. We can’t let our daughter invite the neighbor girl over to play because her mommy doesn’t have good enough morals. We see ourselves as “good” and “pure” and these others as “bad” or “corrupted” and we’re afraid that they will rub off on us, or somehow diminish our goodness. We think that it is a case of oil and water, and that mixing is simply  impossible.


Friends, that’s not how it works, for so many reasons. First off, you are not so great. Before you were saved, you were, in the eyes of God, just as lost as the most sinful person you can think of. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) In His mercy God saved you, and in His mercy He can save others. There is no award for being saved, because you didn’t earn it or accomplish it. If God can love and have grace and mercy for the lost, surely you should be able to. If you are not a slave to sin, it is because Jesus paid for your freedom, and not because you were inherently strong or good.


Second, the sin of others can’t just “rub off” on us. It’s not like the flu – it doesn’t just spread, I promise. I’ve spent a lot of time around a lot of people with all the different brands of sin, and I haven’t become ensnared by any of them. But don’t ask me, ask Jesus. He spent more time with the lost than most of us ever will, and yet he remained without sin. Jesus loved a fraudulent tax collector (Zacchaeus – Luke 19:1-10), an adulterous woman (the Samaritan at the well – John 4:1-26),  and so many others that he and his disciples were infamous for their associations with the moral and religious outcasts (Matthew 9:10-11, Mark 2:15-16, Luke 5:29-30, Luke 7:34).  Jesus didn’t see his righteousness and purity as something to be jealously guarded and protected, but as something to be shared. He knew the importance having faithful friends who loved and worshipped God and set that example for us in his choosing of the disciples. We all need a community of people who share our faith and can encourage us. But Jesus also showed us how important it is for us to let the love we receive from our relationship with the Father spill over into the world around us, particularly to those who have not yet experienced the love of God. Jesus didn’t come so that good, moral Christians would have something in common; he came so that the sinful, the lost, the broken could be saved, healed, and restored (Matthew 9:12) And that is the job he left to us when he returned to the Father (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8).


To wrap this all up, I’m not sure exactly why this is what I felt compelled to write about this week. Perhaps it will be a timely challenge and reminder to some of you. Maybe it will convict someone. I know it has challenged me just thinking about it, evaluating how I live in relation to the lost around me. Do I judge, or do I love? So often Christians feel that we have the right, the responsibility even, to judge the sinners around us. But we don’t. Of all the commands and instructions and responsibilities that God gives us after we are saved, judging is not one of them. Not the unsaved, not the saved. He kept that job all for Himself. I get so frustrated by people who claim to be Christians, but then make Christianity so unattractive by loudly and obnoxiously judging and denouncing sinners. Yes, sin is a problem. It’s a huge problem. It’s the problem. But we don’t win people to Christ by telling them how terrible they are and how they are ruining society. We don’t make Christ attractive by proclaiming our own goodness and righteousness. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of their sin, and it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance, not our bashing or our boasting. (Romans 2:4)


Loving the lost is a risky proposition. It opens your eyes to see people the way that God does. It allows for the possibility that you will care about someone who refuses to answer the call to salvation. You may see those you love lost for eternity. God calls us to love the way that He does, and that kind of love opens the door to all sorts of pain. God’s heart aches continually for the lost who refuse His loving advances. And yet the rewards are just as infinite. When you see the lost saved, broken lives made new, sick souls healed, and people transformed by the power of Christ, there is nothing more amazing. You get to be a witness to something that causes all the angels to rejoice. I don’t know how God is calling you to love those around you. But I do know that He is calling you to it. Please seek Him this week, and don’t just wait for an answer – get out there and start loving some sinners!







Tuesday’s Truth – Mirror, Mirror

Welcome back   🙂 I’m glad we’re both sticking with this! I hope you’re finding something to energize your spirit here.

This week I want to dig into some truth about our image. Image is a very important thing to us humans. God created us with eyes that we use to gather mountains of data about the world around us. The way we see things with our eyes has a big impact on how we perceive them with our minds. But it’s not a one-way street. Our mind can cause our eyes to see the wrong thing. Think of all those optical illusions and “magic eye” pictures that so fascinated you as a child (or even, like me, as an adult). You may know that the circles are not spinning, but something between your eyes and your brain says it most certainly is. Or there are those with eye diseases that either have blank spots in their vision, or see extra things (lines, starbursts, etc.) added to the image before them. We even have sayings based on image: “Seeing is Believing” or “Image is Everything”. We have image consultants, we have whole industries based on making things and people look their best. Or, in some cases, better than their best.

Floating around the internet currently is a video series put out by health and beauty product manufacturer Dove. It features an interesting experiment in which a forensic sketch artists draws two portraits of several women. One he draws based solely on the woman’s description of herself, and the other he bases on a description given by an acquaintance. He never sees the woman until all the sketches are finished. In every case, the picture based on the woman’s own description is much harsher and less attractive (and also less accurate). The point Dove is trying to make is that we all are more beautiful than we think, and that people we meet judge us (at least physically) less harshly than we judge ourselves. I think they’re right, and I think that it is an important fact to remember, especially in such a beauty-crazed society as ours.

But our problem with image goes far beyond age spots, crows’ feet, or dark circles under our eyes. And it’s not just limited to women. Yes, we ladies often worry about our physical image before we even think about the other aspects. But men are not immune to creating false images of themselves as well, although their images are more often based on quantitative factors such as social acceptance, career success, wealth accumulation, and perceived respect. Now, to be sure, some people go off the other end of the continuum and create a false self-image that paints them as much more beautiful, successful, and popular than they are. But by far, the majority of us struggle with seeing ourselves as less thans. I’m less beautiful than _________ because _______. I’m not as successful as ____________ because I don’t _____________. I’m less popular than ___________ because ____________. I get less respect in the office than _________ because __________. The comparisons go on and on until we see ourselves as something small and miserable. The first image that pops into my mind is from the Disney classic Little Mermaid. Being a child of the 80’s, I probably watched this movie 100 times. The wicked sea-witch sings a song about “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, those who had asked for her help, and were unable to repay. They looked like this:  instead of the beautiful, graceful, majestic mer-people that they had been. Sad as it is, we often turn ourselves into “Poor Unfortunate Souls” by lying over and over to ourselves and to others about who we really are.

So what about the truth? Who are we? We are God’s masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We are God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9). Any one of those alone ought to revolutionize the way we see ourselves. You are not from God’s pile of “seconds”. He didn’t pick you up in the yardsale of life (and He won’t sell you off at one, either). The Father and Creator takes great joy in you, whether you are physically beautiful in your own eyes, or the eyes of others. He rejoices over you whether you have reached the highest levels of human success, or are still struggling to get on the bottom rung of the proverbial ladder. Let me leave you with the simple, but eternally profound, truth that God gave to the prophet Samuel as he searched for the next King of Israel: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) What is inside you – your character, your integrity, your relationship with God – those are the things that really count, because they can get better with age. No one gets more beautiful as they get old. But the lasting and eternal continually improves, if it is what we are focused on.

This week, when you look in the mirror, make sure you’re presentable, but then look deeper, and ask God to show you what’s on the inside (Psalm 139:23-24), then take care of that. And when you look at others, discipline yourself to look past their outward appearance, whether stunningly beautiful or distressingly grotesque, and search out their real nature. I guarantee you, things will look a whole lot different.

Be Beautiful!