Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 3 of “Compelled – Living the Value of Visible Grace” (LISTEN HERE).
Wouldn’t you love to change the reputation of the church from being “so judgmental” to being one “so willing to show grace”?
However, in proposing this shift, the fear is the apparent tension between upholding the standard of God’s law, yet showing love and grace. To put it another way, sometimes in the absence of “judgment” there is “acceptance” of any and all behavior under the umbrella of “loving everyone.”
So how do we show grace without being judgmental, but still treasuring God’s way as the best way to live and honor God with our lives?
Jesus gives us a great example as he encounters a group of teachers and Pharisees who are ready to stone a woman caught in adultery.
John 8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
If I asked, which of these individuals showed grace? You would answer, “Jesus, of course!” Did he do it at the expense of allowing sin to continue unaddressed? Nope.
So what is the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees. Did they not both want the law of God upheld?
Yet the Pharisees and teachers of the law had no genuine concern for the soul of the woman. They were concerned a) with trapping Jesus and trying to get him to discredit the law of Moses, and b) they were concerned with putting themselves forward as better than the woman caught in adultery. The heart of the teachers and Pharisees had no care for the woman and were filled with pride in themselves and hatred toward Jesus.
The charge “the church is judgmental” has validity. Too often, we love to point out sin in others to make ourselves look better. We point out sin to mark it to avoid not just the sin, but also the people committing sin. Perhaps when they clean up their act, we can associate with them.
As we have already established, the church is full of sinful people. You and I are included. We all need and have received grace. So instead of allowing sinful, prideful judgment to permeate our perspective, let’s seek the heart that God gave the Apostle Paul:
Philippians 1:7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Grace leads us to care for the soul of every individual and have a genuine concern for their salvation. The goal of addressing sin is to bring a person to repentance and assure them of forgiveness. Grace is willing to engage the sinner, not to bring swift condemnation, but to share grace-filled salvation.
Jesus did. He forgave her sin and told her to leave her life of sin.
Do you think the woman went away feeling judged? Nope.
Do you think the woman went away feeling the affects of grace? Yep.
May God use us to change the culture of his church from pride-filled judgment to grace-filled acceptance.
Apply: Want a simple way to remember what a culture of Grace looks like? Here’s the key points from the last three days:
G – Grow in Grace – be filled yourself!
R – Restore Relationships – Let grace restore what is broken
A – Apply Forgiveness – As you have been forgiven, freely forgive.
C – Care for Others – have a genuine concern for the salvation of each soul.
E – Exhibit Humility – Repent of pride. Let your heart be like that of Jesus…humble.
Prayer: Lord, use me to make your church, your place, a place of grace. AMEN.