Ever since I was young enough to understand I noticed there seemed to be two schools of thought on the approach to bringing people into the Kingdom of God. One is the "fire and brimstone" approach where the threats of the of the fires of hell should be made clear to sinners. The other approach is through relationship, loving them into the Kingdom. The first approach is a "one off"; once that argument has been rejected there is not much room to maneuver. It is also the quick approach. The approach of demonstrating Jesus' love through kindness and relationship is a long term commitment but it has a lot of flexibility. The one thing I do not have a lot of tolerance for is the finger pointing and confrontational attitude that sometimes accompanies the first approach.
In this morning's reading we find this:
Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. (Hebrews 5:1-2)
This struck me this morning in its simplistic view of our Father's expectation of those who have received his grace. Too often we forget what we were before we were saved by his mercy and grace. We have no room to judge those who are lost because we did nothing that warranted God's salvation. It was a gift that we accepted. In fact, it is wise of us to remember clearly what we were when we were called by him:
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:26-30)
Note the description here; not wise, not influential, not of noble birth, foolish, weak, lowly, things that are not. Not a glowing testament to what we were but a wonderful testimony of God's love and grace. This is such an important foundational understanding that we should take some time to meditate on it daily in order to keep our perspective as it should be to carry out our mission:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5)
It is for this reason that we should be able to deal with those who have yet to receive Jesus with such gentleness because we know what we have come from and how much those things had a grip on us. As well, we should also be able to deal gently with those who have lost their way because we know how weak we are and how easy it is for us to be distracted. I am not writing about those who refuse to repent and return to Jesus but of those who fell back into the trap and are longing to be rescued. Nothing can be done with a stubborn heart but much can be done with a heart gripped by the convicting Holy Spirit. We have no right to turn such a heart away just because we cannot accept their actions. We must remember our own unacceptable actions and remember the actions of our Father toward us.
Jesus warned us through many parables that it is vital that those of us who experience God's grace show that same grace to others. We must forgive as we have been forgiven. We must love as we have been loved. We must give as we have received. Jesus has warned us that if we cannot do this then we will lose what we have received. We cannot be so selfish and self-centered to think it is only about us. We have received so we can freely give, that the whole world will know of Jesus and his great act of love and grace for all of us. We cannot be like Israel and think the blessings are just for us:
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
Take some time and reflect on your own attitude toward the lost and fallen. Then as you move through this day apply the blessings you have so freely received from our loving Lord Jesus.