The Bible says we are called to love like Jesus loves.
Jesus was very clear in this: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)
My encounter with these verses recently led me into a contemplation of this question: How are we to respond to sin in the journeys of the people who intersect our lives?
Jesus loves us in the reality of our sins. Despite our sins. Is that our call?
The Bible assures us that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He is aware of every experience we have ever had, every wound we have ever received, every breach and betrayal our hearts and our spirits have ever endured.
Read Psalm 139: it is a dramatic reminder of the depth of Jesus’ knowledge of our hearts, our histories and our journeys.
The Psalmist writes, “. . .in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me. . .” (Psalm 139:16)
Every single day of our lives is known intimately by Jesus. . .before it happens.
That gives Jesus a deep and unique perspective on our sin. Jesus knows every word, every thought, every motivation, every rationalization — all the junk that lies behind and beneath every choice made. He knows every step taken and every reaction experienced. He knows, better than we know ourselves, the paths and the processes that have produced every single sin in our lives.
And still, Jesus loves us.
In fact, there is no more compassionate, more understanding, more sympathetic witness to our struggles with sin than Jesus. He sees our brokenness and our coping mechanisms; He sees our defensive reactions and our flawed reasoning; He sees our grasping for autonomy and our belligerent rebellions. He knows what drives and what motivates every choice.
And still, He loves us. Still, He invites us into relationship with Him. Still, He calls us to accept the grace, undeserved and unmitigated, of complete forgiveness for every poor choice. And He never revokes the offer of a new and redeemed life with Him.
It doesn’t matter how far from Jesus we stray; His Love never changes, and His invitation is never withdrawn.
Jesus grieves for the consequences we must endure as a result of our choices, but He does not judge. . .not yet. He acknowledges that judgment is coming, and Jesus certainly warns us that it can come at any time. But it is not yet here!
Jesus assures us that, until the day comes, He holds judgment in abeyance, and He offers us, instead, His Grace. . .the amazing opportunity to receive complete pardon for everything we’ve done or will do. His forgiveness is ours, if we will just turn to Him.
Nowhere in His response to the human condition do we find compromise. Jesus demonstrates that compassion and understanding and grace do not involve acceptance of sin; He does not condone what is wrong. Yet still, He offers grace.
My point is obvious: we are called to love in the same way.
Our response to sin must be as close as we can get to the grace of Jesus. . .to the compassion and sympathy that comes from seeing and understanding the brokenness and the wounded motivations that generate sinful choices.
We are called to respond to sin with deferred judgment in favor of unquenchable grace and inexhaustible love. That is how Jesus loves us!
Somewhere along the line, we — the people of the Church — lost touch with this commandment to love the broken as Jesus loves them. Instead, we have chosen to the do the easier thing. We embrace a different charge: to fix the broken and the hurting and to point out sin whenever it is found. We choose, instead of loving, to instruct sinners in how they must change in order to avoid the judgment that is coming.
And thus, we wound. We turn people away. We drive a wedge between the Church and the men and women who need Jesus the most.
We can, if we so choose, take the better path.
Our response to sin must be to love as Jesus loved. In that place, we need not fear compromise or acceptance of sin. We can trust the Holy Spirit to work in the heart of every person, uniquely flawed and broken though they may be, to receive His call to turn from their sin. The broken don’t need us to point it out.
We just need to do what Jesus asked of us. Our response to sin: simply love one another.