“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” (Romans 12:9-10).
The last entry talked about our tendency to define ourselves by our temptations as if they were full-on transgressions. This is simply not accurate. Our temptation does not equal transgression, or, put another way, as Andrew Comiskey writes “weakness is not wickedness.”
But the Enemy is skilled at reinforcing our perception that our identity is built on our temptations and weaknesses. Even worse, he has recruited some of the best and brightest of the Christian church to tow the line for him.
Though few believers would admit it if asked directly, there are many who unintentionally reinforce this very idea that our weakness is who we are. They don’t want the recovering drug addict in their pews, or the reformed convict, or the person struggling with unwanted homosexual attractions, or the man in counseling for anger/violence issues, or the former prostitute. Many times mainstream Christianity equates these people’s weaknesses with wickedness, even if they are walking victoriously over those past sin patterns.
The Apostle Paul said that the Roman Christians were to let their love be without hypocrisy.
I have to be the first to admit that I have been there myself, treating certain broken people with the proverbial 10-foot pole even as I proclaimed the love of Jesus.
Do you know why we do that? I think it is because of many factors: unsureness about exactly how to handle it, insecurity about what people may think if we are caught showing grace to the ‘wrong’ people, discomfort due to an uncertainty of how to relate to such a person.
I believe very little of it is just pure meanness or an attitude of thinking we’re better than the other person. It’s often not for bad reasons that we do what we do, even if on the surface they seem like bad choices. It’s our broken way of relating. So before we become too harsh on ourselves or one another, let’s think about why we do what we do and focus on fixing it.
And here is why the fix is so important: whenever the church tells someone (by their actions or attitudes) that they are defined by their past, what is to stop that person from returning to that past? What’s to give them the hope of victory and keep them from caving to the lure of past lifestyles. This is how the church often, albeit unwittingly, drives people into the very pits that they condemn.
So let’s make a conscious effort to lift up, as we are called to do. Because the alternative is often an unconscious act of letting one another crumble. Temptation is not transgression, freedom is possible, and the church needs to carry that banner every day.