Friday, January 7, 2011

Don’t Flinch – Part 3

Of all the parts of this “mini-series,” this has been the hardest to put into words. There is a delicate balance that must be struck and requires a certain sensitivity of one who wishes to implement what I am about to say. It is difficult to share what I have learned without sounding arrogant or condescending. So I ask for your grace as I share. Please bear in mind that I am only submitting what I have learned from experience, both as someone who has been judged harshly and as someone who has judged others harshly.

When we take the title Christian, or Christ Follower, we are shouldering a tremendous responsibility. It is a declaration that as we walk through this world, we are to be a revelation of the Lord who gave his life on our behalf. We are to be an example of his grace and love to a world that is suffering the effects of sin, sometimes as willing participants and sometimes as another faceless victim. How we respond to those who are dealing with the effects of sin in their lives may be the only clue they have as to how God responds to them. It is our duty and obligation to fulfill this role with integrity and compassion.

Unfortunately, many of us fail to meet this standard. We act as if God’s holiness is in danger of being contaminated by a sinful world. We flinch as we hear the stories, we draw back in fear when we see the effects, and shun those who need his touch the most. I often speculated what could lead us into such damning behavior – are we afraid another’s sin will pollute us? Are we worried that God is unable to clean us up again if we get a spot or two on us? Do we think that he won’t love us if he found out we spent the day with a divorcee, an addict, a liar, a gossip, or worse?

Now, I have heard all the excuses. God doesn’t want us to associate with sinners. What does light have to do with the darkness? Evil company corrupts. Tolerance is the same as approval. You don’t want to be led astray. And I am not denying the validity of any of these arguments, but when they are not held in tension with the truth that we are the light of the world, we are the ones responsible for reaching out to those God loves and values as much as he loves and values us.

Don’t flinch, means that we are able to live our lives with a confidence that God is greater than any evil we may encounter. It means that instead of being appalled at a behavior or action we focus on the person, we see the need they have in their life, and we respond according to the strength and power of the one we serve. It means that we recognize the inherent worth the other person has as God's creation, and we demonstrate his desire to redeem any and every thing they may have ever done or endured.

When we flinch, we are telling the world that God is flinching, too. We are saying that God is not big enough or doesn't love them enough to reach out to them or push aside anything that separates them from him. We are telling them that their sin is so great, all hope for redemption has been lost. We are misrepresenting this God we claim to serve and have the utmost faith in, and I hope to never be held accountable for that action.

When I don’t flinch, I can hold the hand of one who is in pain. I am giving them permission to ask the questions, to seek God, and to hopefully, experience his love through me. When I don’t flinch, I am saying God is strong enough to deal with their issues, unafraid of their doubt or anger. I am declaring that he loves them enough to endure anything to be near them, including death and he has already done so. When I don’t flinch, I am saying that I am not naïve enough to think I am better than them, that I have been there and he was good enough to save me. I am giving them the hope that he may be big enough to save them.

When I don’t flinch, I am modeling the behavior of my Lord, who was not surprised that the Woman at the Well was living in sin. I am saying that he knows, he always knew and he still desires to share living water with all who are willing to sit at the edge of the well with him.

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