You died with Christ and were made free from the powers that influence this world. So why do you act as if you still belong to the world?Colossians 2:20
Wednesday evening at church the mid-week men’s group completed our study of half-truths (I am still a little giddy, by the way, using the words “at church” instead of “on Zoom”).
This week’s half-truth in question was, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
The conversation moved in a different direction from the discussion Saturday morning that spawned my, “Jesus, the Prodigal Son, Tony Campolo, and Ben Hogan” reflection.
This time around, one particular thought grabbed me, and I think it is worth talking about. “What this is really about is a call to leadership,” I said. “Pointing out other people’s sins so we can demonstrate how gracious we are by condescending to ‘love’ them anyway, puts the spotlight both on ‘those sinners’, and ‘how great we are for deigning to love them’.
“But God is calling us to be leaders in love,” I continued; “and love is a more powerful change agent than judgement.”
Love is also a more effective invitation than the threat of exclusion.
We are already welcome!
Like the desperately sad guy at the gas pump said to Rebekah when she asked him if he had a church home: “All they ever did was tell me I was going to hell,” he said. “Lady, I’m already there.”
Hell is not so much a destination to avoid later but – for many people – a reality now. People don’t earn their way into hell anymore than they can earn their way into heaven. The invitation of Jesus is to join in, here and now, with God’s initiatives of love, light, justice, grace, mercy, hope, and promise.
Accepting the invitation Jesus offers is not about getting a ticket punched for a journey to paradise in the afterlife. Jesus is inviting us – absolutely everyone – to trust God today and to participate in God’s saving acts right now. Because Jesus has made the way clear.
Now we’re all free:
Here’s a good example! It’s kind of like after Victory in Europe Day (1945), when my mother’s church invited German soldiers and downed airmen from the POW camp to afternoon tea and fellowship, welcoming them pretty much every weekend before they were repatriated. The message was clear, and it went something like this, “The war is over. We (the Allies) may have won, but what it means is that now you’re free too…”
Jesus won this epic victory over death, and destruction, and despair, and brokenness, and evil, and sin – everything that separates us from God. So, like my mum’s church in the ruins of East London, we can say to absolutely everyone, “It’s over; we won; but what this means is that now you are free too.”
That’s not judgment, it’s opportunity. Love, plain and simple, has already set us free. – DEREK