Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Show Compassion to Sinners

{Jude 21-23; NLT}
Live in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins.

One of the things I find interesting about Jesus is that he didn’t get angry with people who struggled with sin. In the Gospels we see that Jesus became angry with the "religious leaders." Obviously He was upset with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes because they burden people with law but did little to help them all the while opposing Jesus. Jesus also became angry with the Twelve when they prevented children from seeing Him. The people who Jesus became angry with were the people who were to help lead people to God. To the people struggling with sin Jesus showed compassion and offered them an invitation to follow Him.

We see an example of this reality with Jesus encounter with the woman at the well. Jesus and His disciples are traveling through Samaria in order to return to Galilee. The group stops near the village of Sychar to rest. There is a well near the town, a well that was dug by Jacob. It was at the well Jesus rests and the disciples go into the village to buy food.

It was almost noon when a woman came out to the well to draw water. This was odd since the women usually drew water in the cool of the morning and the cool of the evening, they didn’t come out during the day. It was odd because the well was part of the social network for the women, it provided them time to talk and gossip. In other words it would have been obvious to the casual observer that this woman was an outcast among her fellow citizens.

Jesus strikes up a conversation with the woman, which would have been an unheard of event in that culture, and they talk about water. In the course of the conversation Jesus reveals that He knows the woman has been married five times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. No condemnation comes from Jesus’ lips, just the invitation to drink the water He is offering.

The way Jesus related to people struggling with sin has gotten me to think about how we should relate to them. One school of thought is that we need to convict the hearts of people about their sin, so we need to open up God’s Law and show them that they are liars, cheaters, thieves, and adulterers. They need to understand their sin before they can repent of it.

I suppose that is one way to handle the situation, but it doesn’t seem to be Jesus’ way. Could it be that people who are entangled with sin understand fully that things are not the way they should be? I would suggest that a person struggling with sin is already experiencing the consequences of sin. He or she doesn’t need to be told that things need to be changed or be reminded that what they are doing is wrong, their lives are evidence of that fact. What they need to hear is that there is hope and that there are people willing to help them change no matter who they are or what they have done.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a place for telling the world of God’s law, but more often then not what people need is mercy and compassion. People struggling with sin don’t need lectures on sin or be told that they are sinners, but they need to know that there is hope for their lives and that things can be different. They need to know that they are loved regardless of the circumstances in their lives.

Perhaps we need to quit being so vocal about the sins of the world and being more compassionate about their circumstances. When we help people rather than judge them we better communicate God’s love. That is what people really need.

  • Point to Ponder: Jesus showed compassion to sinners and so should we.
  • Passage to Remember: Jude 21-23
  • Prayer to Pray: Lord, thank You for showing compassion and mercy to me. Please help me to see other people, and their sins, through the lens of compassion rather than judgment.

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