Judge or Sinner? Pick a Side

There really isn’t a third group.  Jesus ate with sinners.  He spoke to those that followed Him (fishermen, children, diseased, depressed, hopeless).  They took one glance at this man and followed Him.  Then there were the religious elite, the pharisees.  He often rebuked them as their judgement was in error and had no place in a gospel built on love and forgiveness.

So where is the third group?  Where is the group we all think we belong in?  Where would we be sitting if Jesus walked into the mall today and there we are?  Most of us admit we have sinned at one time way back when, but we really dislike the connotation of ‘sinner’.  The pharisees were far worse.  Hypocrites, self righteous, pious.  We don’t want to be lumped in with them… but we certainly don’t find ourselves at the tax collector’s table either.

So who are we?  Maybe we could argue we fit in the middle?  That almost sounds like being lukewarm, which promises we will be spat out of grace should that be the case.  I can tell you who you are, but you may not like it.  It’s both good news and bad.  Lets start with the bad.

You are the sinner.  We all are.  We are human.  We have fallen.  We have a diabolical enemy with an army of demons that literally want to drag us to Hell fighting over our souls.  We make mistakes, we goof, and sometimes we just plain choose to do dumb things.  We are actively sinners.  All of us.  The pharisees are simply the group of us that lives in denial.

So, the good news?  We are the ones Jesus came to save.  We would find Him at our table.  He would come into our home.  He will heal us.  He will free us.  He will forgive us.  He will lift us up and allow us to join with Him in the place He has prepared for His children.

Two groups of people.  One followed Him, touched Him in faith, carried their sick to Him, washed His feet.  Sinners, all of them.  The other group nailed Him to the cross because they felt superior to Him and those He came to save.  They also feared Him.  Jesus came to us in our mess.  He meets us where we are.  He did it before and it cost His life.  He does it still.

Why did the pharisees hate Him?  He came to save us.  Our group.  The little guy.  They thought he belonged at the cool table.  But He choose the outcast, the lonely, the forgotten.  The pharisees pass judgement and then claim they are holier than any other.  Do you recall the simple scripture that addresses judgement?  Here it is in all its tricky, complicated, pieces for us to sort out and argue over… “Do not judge.”.

Sounds like a wonderful test to me.  Which group do you belong?  Whose sins are you worried about?  Yours?  Or those of another?   Does Jesus live in your home?  Or do you grind your teeth at the thought of others worshiping Him?  Those people who do it all wrong.  They meet on the wrong day, they sing the wrong songs, they interpret God’s word differently than you.  How dare they enjoy His presence… His blessing… His gift!

The good news about being in the ‘sinners’ group is that we have each other.  All of us, in it together, needing grace, knowing what stumbling is like, knowing what shame feels like, knowing what judgement feels like.  And as we yearn to be more like Jesus, we can sense what forgiveness feels like as we embrace each other, sinners all the same, and love each other the way He taught us to.  There is simply no room for judgement.  We do not wish to be judged and we do not judge.

What replaces judgement?  Prayer.  We pray for each other.  We pray for the pharisees.  We pray for our enemies, for those who wrong us.  We pray for those who need grace, love, healing, and hope.  We do life together.  Helping each other.  We embrace the words spoken as Jesus prepared to return to heaven.  “let them be one”.  We unite in our sin (not as a badge of honor, but as a common ground of understanding).  And much more so, we unite in our need for grace and humility.

I’m not proud of my sin, but I love those traveling with me who withhold judgement.  We have a common enemy that would use that against us if we let him.  Something great happens when we accept what group we are in.  It’s not giving up… we always strive to improve and make God proud every chance we can.  But knowing our place disarms the enemy.  He can’t hold our past hostage over us any longer.  When we know our place, we know we are forgiven.

When we know our place, we know we are loved and the lies of the enemy sounds as hypocritical as the judgement cast down from those told to not judge.  We all need forgiveness.  Some of us need to forgive.  Some of us need to invite God into our mess.  He will come.  Just as you are.  Just where you are.  One of Satan’s biggest lies is that we have to meet some criteria to be worthy of forgiveness.  What a tremendous lie that is!

Don’t be that monkey in the middle who thinks that only the other two sides get to play.  Jump out and claim your place at the sinners table filled with grace, love, forgiveness, hope, eternal promises, and have a seat next to our heavenly brother, Jesus.  He has been waiting for you.

Opting out of Grace does not Mean God Can’t Forgive

There are frequently two incorrect assumptions many assign to God.

1.  I’m not good enough.

2.  My sin is too great.

First, you may notice I said we assign those assumptions to God.  That was not a typo.  We may be sulking in our own history of mistakes, but we are effectively saying, “I have dug a hole so big even God can’t reach me!”

Do you really believe that is possible?  Are we so great that our mishaps can limit our creator?

Secondly, lets revisit what God did to forgive our sins.  He let His Son live a homeless, nomadic life on earth, allowed him to be mocked, tortured, and killed, and put all of our sins on Him in our place.  Do we really believe that after all of that, His plan to save US had a flaw?  Are we so clever we found a loophole?

When you claim your sins are too big, you are also saying God is too small.  And incidentally, you are kind of saying the whole death on a cross thing was a bit of a dud.   Equally so, if we assume our merit, in any way, affects God’s relationship with us, we have a gross misunderstanding of God’s plan from the beginning.  Jesus came to save the sinner… of which we all are.

We cloak our statements so it sounds like we are so bad and unworthy…. but what we are really saying is that God can’t.  Or God won’t.  That line of thinking has a problem with tense.  God did!  It’s already done. The price has already been paid.  To know that Jesus already died for your sins and then to believe you are exempt from that salvation is to call God’s plan a failure.  You think you are saying, “no, I failed… ME!”  but that is exactly why you have been forgiven… because we all fail.  We all seek forgiveness… and God will give that grace-filled forgiveness to any and all who ask sincerely.

Why would He go through the agony of letting His Son die…  Why would Jesus go through the whole of it… if it wasn’t a complete package deal?  Did God tell Him, “sorry, Son, the liars and thieves can be saved but the adulterers and murderers are on their own?  No.

No matter how sick, how disgusting, how repulsive you find yourself… Jesus bought those attributes from you.  There might be something holding you back or keeping you from letting go of those sins… but nothing held Jesus back from dying for them.

So instead of shrugging off your Savior and condemning yourself… try asking for a little grace.  Grace is that thing that NONE of us deserves, but He gives it to us anyway because He loves us.  You don’t require MORE grace than anyone else.  We all need grace.  And to all who ask, all will receive.

One final reminder… One of Satan’s biggest lies is in the mirror.  Its how we perceive ourselves.  God loves us and wants us to be with Him.  He payed dearly so we could be with Him.  If you are feeling unwanted, useless, unworthy, or unloved… you are being deceived.  God follows His own commands, of which the greatest is, to love all.

Here is the sad summary… you can choose not to accept grace.  Many do.  But it isn’t because it wasn’t offered.  Can you get so hungry that food won’t help?  Can you get so thirsty that water won’t work?  Can you be so poor that you turn down money because it will just make things worse?  I hope those all sound ridiculous to you.  Because it seems quite silly to God that you would find yourself in a predicament that He can’t solve or forgive.

One Question: Pass / Fail

Lets call this an exercise.  It might sound like I’m getting political, but I promise it’ll barely scrape the surface before I get back on topic.  And the topic is a single question test to help you understand where you stand spiritually.  It’s not meant as anything other than a personal self assessment in one key area of faith.

Jesus, our intercessor, is often seen as standing at the gates of Heaven.  He will, as promised, vouch for those who have received His gift of salvation.  The Bible calls it, among other things, the separation of grains from weeds.

Before we get going, I’d like to ask you to think of 2 names.  See, I’m not even going to mention them.  These 2 figures have been in political news non stop for months and likely won’t be left out of the news for the foreseeable future.  Most likely one of the two names brings up feelings of unhappiness.  In many people, the feelings are much stronger.  If I’m to believe social media, both of these people are absolutely hated by the opposing party.  If you aren’t wrapped up in the political turmoil then pick your current enemy number 1.

Some of us, get so agitated at the mere mention of the name, we probably already forgot what we are doing.  So all I want you to do is to think about those 2 people for a minute.  Got a good image?  All set on their character, beliefs, motives, and class?  Good.

Now, lets pretend for a moment that Jesus pulls you aside at the gates of Heaven.  He has a task for you.  Those 2 people are right behind you in line.  In your ear, He whispers the following:

I have already paid for their sins.  On the cross I endured absence from my Father while I took on the whole burden of all sin.  I was sacrificed and now is the time to deem people entrance or deny, forever, access to the Father.  I know how horrible time away from God is and it forced me to cry out in anguish for all to hear.  To be away from God is to be forsaken.  Lost.  Alone.  Horribly and wretchedly doomed.  I will not share their secrets or their sins, nor their accomplishments.  You only have the knowledge you have brought into death.  What sentence would you pass on to these 2 people?  Should they be allowed to praise God forever, or weep for eternity?  Should I forsake them?

And thus begins your test.  Knowing only what social media or biased media has provided you, are you ready to condemn others to an eternity of Hell?  Are your sins lesser?  Is God unable or incapable of forgiving?

I’ll remind you of a single scripture before you are asked to answer.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Can you do it?  Can you pass judgement on these people?  Can your conscience bear the weight of eternal consequences?  I praise God every day that I am not a judge (in earthly or heavenly matters).  Passing out penalty is not something I envy.  Although it is much needed, I could not be the one to decide when a price should be paid.  Thankfully, the Bible makes it easy.  Forgive debts.  Forgive crimes against us.  Forgive each other.

This doesn’t mean to let people ruin the world with chaos.  This means that we are free from the burden of consequences when we forgive those who wrong us.  This affectively makes it “their” problem.  To not forgive is to hold on.  Picture Ebenezer Scrooge hoarding receipts, demanding payments, double checking the locks on all of his money…  Its a task to hold grudges.  Its a burden.  When you forgive, both parties become free.

OK, no more preaching.  It’s time to answer… Did you learn anything about yourself?

Was it hard to give grace to someone like this?

Did you find feelings of hatred stir up inside?

If you found that your emotions don’t exactly line up with the many, many verses in the Bible about forgiveness and judgement, then you are in the right place.  You are able to see the difference which will allow you to change your behavior.  The Christ-Like servant does not publicly hate or judge.  Instead, we pray.  If you believe, as the Bible tells us, that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace, then you must also believe that everyone is worth praying for.

The bottom line is are you are a hater or a pray-er?  Who do you choose to be today?