Truth and Grace

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   There are a lot of things being said about truth these days and it’s easy to see why. Graphic sin is sensationalized, advertised and so publicized that so called “normal” sins seem so innocent and easily forgivable in many a Christian mind. It is easy to slide into a mindset that thinks that “I am better than some one else,” especially if we determine that they are “living in sin.” What goes through your mind about people who crowd the bar to get drunk on Friday night?  What goes through your mind over the trashy-dressed female selling herself on the street corner?  What position do you take when you know that an unmarried man and woman have had a one-night stand?

   Let’s go tougher on the questions. How do you react and then act toward homosexuals, lesbians, transvestites, transsexuals and the new trend toward “transgender?”  How about the guy sitting on death row for murder? The pimp, the pornographer? The common thread in these peoples’ lives is sin. They’re some of the big “living in sins.”

   Do you have the same thoughts in your mind when someone says something about a person mentioned above or anyone else that is intended to be injurious to their reputation? How about if a person that believes they live such a clean, good Christian life that they will not be judged nearly as severe as the first paragraph people?  Should I slide something in here about not paying taxes on at least a bit of cash?   Will you consider the little lie?  You know, the one that, you know, others wouldn’t understand the actual truth so we will just tell them a part truth?  How about, “I can really justify my anger and it builds to a point called rage, and I say things that hurt someone else, but they had it coming you know.” The common thread here is also sin. These are just a few of the little “living in sins.”

   The truth is that no human on earth is without sin and there is no grading as to a level of a sin that separates mankind from a Holy God.  Every sin separates people from God.  The truth is, we all deserve the death sentence.  So God came up with the remedy for which man could not and can not.  The Word of God became flesh and lived among men.  Many religious people, including leaders, didn’t recognize that God had come in the flesh because they were focused on truth only, which was the Mosaic law. If we focus on truth only today, we do the same thing. When the Creator God revealed Himself to mankind, He came “full of grace and truth.”  Read John 1:1-17.  We, as Christ followers,  can not separate truth and grace.  Oh, we do, but when we do, we are forgetting that “All have sinned and fall short.”  Romans 3:23.  When we point fingers at anyone else so as to point out in what ways they are living in sin, have I forgotten that so am I, and so are you, living in sin? Truth without grace is where mankind was before Jesus came, without hope.  No one can live a perfect enough life to attain salvation on their own.

   The accuser comes to convict people of their sin before God all the time. Revelation 12:10.  As Christ followers,  we do not need to be helping the enemy of our souls by doing the same thing.  A pimp will quickly convince the girls he is trafficking that he is their only hope, he alone loves them, no one will ever want them back, they are now damaged goods, unforgivable and unwanted by anyone else, so stick with him, he will provide all their needs. If we shout at them from across the street to point out they are going to hell for their sins we have just reinforced exactly what the pimp has conditioned them to.

   Rather, we should be shouting from the roof tops Romans 5:8. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Now that’s hope, the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ for all of the before mentioned people. All of us!

   While I was in the depth of my addiction, living in sin, I came to believe that Jesus loved me so much that He died to pay the penalty for my sins while I was doing them.  Wow, that’s love in action.  Love, we as Christ followers, are supposed to imitate. It was that love that drew me to want to know Him more.  I am grateful God brought loving people into my life to coach and guide me into a deeper relationship and understanding of God and His great love for all sinners. Oh there were the finger pointers, there still are, and of course they do it in Jesus’ name. People who truly understand that they have “lived in sin” know that the down side of sinning is shame and despair. The evil one reminds them often as to how worthless they are, why they should have never been born, and how even God wouldn’t want them. I’ve been there, potential suicide victim. Hopeless. 

   Sometimes well meaning people think if they add a little truth (guilt and shame) they can change (control) the person into being a better person, one more like them self.  This tactic doesn’t work, it usually brings more harm. Only God is in the life-changing business.  He can transform a life, not me and not you.  My task — and I believe the task of Christ followers — is to demonstrate the love of God and Jesus. We are to love even our enemies with a sacrificial and servant love that causes us to bend our knees and wash feet.  Jesus knew Judas would betray Him yet He washed his feet as a servant and later died for him. You can read more about loving even your enemies at Luke 6:27-36.

   The story of Zacchaeus, Luke 19:2-9, is a great story.  Jesus invited Himself to Zak’s house for dinner.  Zak was a BIG “living in sinner.”   Jesus didn’t point out Zak’s sins, He demonstrated love and grace by just associating with him and as a result Zak repented and salvation came to his house. If we are like the Most High then we will be kind to the ungrateful and the wicked, and we will be merciful just as our Father is merciful.

   We are seed throwers, not life changers. Throw the seeds of the love of God and the good news of Jesus everywhere, especially among the folks “living in sin.” Be the best loving, grace-filled representative that you can.  If the “sinner” sees and experiences a glimpse of God’s love for them though you, then the Holy Spirit will come and water that seed you planted and perhaps reveal His new covenant to them by putting God’s laws in their minds and writing them on their hearts. They will know Him and He will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:7-13.

   I once went to visit a World War 2 veteran in his last days on this earth. I knew he had never learned to read or write.  I also knew he struggled with PTSD.  He was a gifted marksman, he could shoot things most people couldn’t even see and at distances hard to imagine. He had a gift that the government used many times during the war. The people that died never saw him or ever heard the report, they merely collapsed in silence.  He told me that the memories were like tar on his hands and he couldn’t get it off.  We talked about forgiveness and how much God loved him. I wanted him to know because I had come to love this man over several years of spending some time with him. I worried for his salvation and I so wanted to see him in heaven in spite of his sins.  I will never forget his answer to a question I asked him several days before he passed.  Do you understand that God can and will forgive you for all your sins? He said to me “yes, I understand that this Jesus died on a cross for what I did and if I believe that, God will forgive me.” I asked him, how do you know that? You cannot read or write.  Did someone tell you?  His answer was “No one told me, I can see it in my mind.” I look forward to seeing him again.

   Let’s not over estimate our self and never under estimate the desire and power of God to reach the lost. Throw seeds of truth and grace. And remember true love is often spelled   T- I -M- E.  Invest some in a “living in sin” person.  Let them see the love, humility and the grace of Jesus in you.

Lynn Fredrick is the author of “Stand Firm:  From the Darkness of Pornography and Sexual Sin Into the Light of God’s Grace.”

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