“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1, NIV84). What a glorious promise.
One would think that those who claim to belong to God’s family, who, because of Christ, stand before God uncondemned would be the last people in the world to condemn others. Sadly, it seems that we who stand before God uncondemned have made it a specialty to be known for our condemnation of others.
A few weeks ago I was talking with an individual who formerly had been a faithful church member, but now doesn’t attend a church at all. That person mentioned that the reason they walked away was because his church, “Never let anyone forget a failure.”
If you’re a church person, you know what he’s talking about. The church I grew up in had a man in it who loved the Lord, worked tirelessly for the church, gave a lot of money to the church, but he wasn’t allowed to serve in any office of the church, even an usher, because before he became a Christian, he had gotten a divorce.
No condemnation with God, but plenty of condemnation from God’s people. Am I the only one who thinks there is something horribly wrong with that picture?
God accepts us just as we are. Study the New Testament and you are not going to find one place where God says, “OK, you’ve got some serious issues, you go take care of those issues, and then come back and we’ll talk.” No. He accepts us just the way we are because He knows that the path to influence runs down the road of acceptance.
We need to extend that same type of unconditional acceptance to others. We who have been freely forgiven should be the most forgiving people there are on the face of this planet. Where have we gone wrong?
Do you recall the story of the prodigal son? After you finish reading this column, take a look at it in Luke 15:11-32 to refresh your memory. The reason I refer you to this passage is because I think it holds the key to the answer to the question, “Where have we gone wrong.”
This boy was so busy working for his father that he lost relationship with his father; he shared his father’s house, he didn’t share his father’s heart. Like so many today, while they do the right thing, they do it with a hidden resentment residing in their hearts. They are insiders who resent outsiders. Goody two-sandals who despise those who aren’t.
My experience tells me that they are this way because they secretly want to participate in the things they condemn.
When relationship with the Father is lost, we turn to religion to fill the gap. Christianity was never meant to be a religion. Religion is man’s effort to reach God and it always involves works; what we do or don’t do.
Religion’s mark is rules and regulation. Christianity on the other hand is God’s effort to reach us. He moved to re-establish the relationship sin ruined.
Here’s the thing: religious Christianity is always easier to live than relational Christianity. That is why we gravitate so readily toward the rules and away from the relationship. It is also why we begin to reflect the attitude of the older brother in the prodigal son story.
Religious Christianity leads to resentment, bitterness, and a sense of self-worthiness that we have earned by “being good.” And it is this resentment, bitterness and self-righteousness that’s resulted in our propensity to condemn rather than console, to alienate people rather than accepting them, and to demonstrate an attitude of un-forgiveness (“They never let you forget a failure”) rather than the free forgiveness we should be demonstrating.
Paul wrote, “Honor God by accepting each other, as Christ has accepted you.” (Romans 15:7, CEV). What do you think might happen in our community, if we Christ-followers started to get this right?
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.