Today’s blog is a continuation of yesterday’s post, the second and final part. See the previous post for background.
When I ended yesterday, we had established that we, Christians, are part of God’s redemptive work in creation as we follow Jesus’ example. This is how we do that in terms of our relationships with people:
Take any situation and think, “How can I apply Jesus’ life, words, and actions to this?” For example, take racism. How can we think it is okay to hate on someone because of the race into which they were born, when Jesus Himself sought out a woman of one of the ethnicities the Jew hated (the Samaritans), talked to her, and forgave her sins, and when He healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman (another nation Israel hated)?
Now take politics. How can we hate people of other political parties with such vehemence? Jesus had in His group of disciples a tax collector (hated by the people because they took advantage of the poor and sold out to Rome, the enemy) and a zealot (who hated the Romans and everyone associated with them), and they lived in peace. How can we seriously expect politicians to right the world in which we live? Jesus didn’t, or else He would have said much more about the politics of the day, rather than nearly completely staying out of it (cf. Matt. 17:24-27; 22:15-22, when Jesus is questioned about taxes), and He would have matched the Jewish understanding of the expected Messiah, a coming king who would overthrow Rome and rule over Israel like David once did. No, Jesus knew that salvation can never come from our politicians, for they, like us, are fallen humans, hopelessly addicted to sin.
Now take those who live in sin. How can we hate homosexuals, prostitutes, murderers, cheaters, adulterers, etc.? Jesus ate with the tax collectors and the sinners, an act of huge implication in a culture in which sharing a meal was majorly significant. Jesus said, “‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mark 2:17). If Jesus did not shun or abuse or beat up or berate those considered the worst sinners at the time, but sought them out and redeemed them, how can we justify not doing the same?
Furthermore, we have no right to judge those living in sin who are not yet part of God’s kingdom. Paul writes, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Cor. 6:12-13). Christians have no right to judge the unbelievers; that’s God’s job, and when we judge them instead of reaching out to them, we fool ourselves into thinking we are God. James writes, “Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12). When we judge others, we usurp God’s position. God alone is perfectly righteous and just. God alone is truly able to judge. We cannot. When we do, we act like the unmerciful servant of Matthew 18:21-35. There is something deeply wrong with us if the overwhelming grace God pours out on us continually does not change us. One result of experiencing His grace should be to then pour out grace on others. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:12-13).
Finally, we should treat people, all people, well, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done to us or our loved ones. Because Jesus commands it. It is the second greatest command, second only to the command to love God with everything: “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18). God is the Lord. He commands us to love everyone as we love ourselves. The cliché “do unto others what you would have them do unto you” holds true like pure gold. We need to examine every single interaction we have with other people and test our actions. We should treat every person we encounter just as well as, if not better than, we want them to treat us.
People, let’s love. Because people bear God’s image. Because Jesus loved us. Because God commands it.
Let’s be a revolution that builds people up instead of tearing them down. Let’s reflect God clearly, as His image-bearers.