Some years ago, God gave us the privilege of helping some young people and their families through difficult trial. Satan had laid a cleverly disguised trap, sin had occurred, and as a result everyone involved was hurting. To make a long story short, God gave a wonderful victory over the period of many weeks. Hearts were softened, Christians responded with grace toward one another, kids and parents were reconciled, and hearts were realigned with God’s direction and purpose. Things broken were healed. Lives out of fellowship were restored. God was good through a very tough situation.
The whole experience was a powerful and immersive experience in the reconciling grace of God. It was a joy to see His truth bring hearts to repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing.
Some days after, I received a note from one of the parents involved in the situation. And one line of that note simply jumped off the page, and has resonated in my heart ever since. It simply said:
“Thank you for giving our kids a way to be right again…”
Wow! How do we miss this? The entire mission of God for time and eternity is to make things right again. Jesus made a way for me to be right again. Jesus took all the complexity and destructiveness of my sin and failure, and He killed it—giving His own life for mine. His sacrifice was the full payment for my sinfulness. With great difficulty to Himself, He made it easy for me to be right.
And then He placed you and me into the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18) “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation…” In His plan to reconcile all things to Himself, He has given you and me the wonderful ministry of calling others to partake in His grace, forgiveness, and renewal.
So I have a simple question for you.
Do you make it easy for others to be right? As a Christian, are you quick to extend grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness? When someone fails, do you move quickly to the position of restoration?
Or do you focus on the sin? Do you feel the need to make someone pay—to shame, guilt, and press upon them the awfulness and weight of their sin? Do you somehow feel the responsibility to be an executor of God’s judgement for wrong?
There is a biblical place for rebuke and reproof—for we are commanded to do so. But challenging someone to turn from sin is very different than shaming them for their sin. What did Jesus do with the woman caught in adultery? He reproved her—“Go and sin no more” but He didn’t shame her, “Neither do I condemn thee…” (John 8:11) He was intolerant of the sin, but gracious to the sinner.
I have seen Christians who move well beyond the biblical command to reprove and rebuke. They assume a role of executor of judgment and justice that God never intended. They rise up in arrogance to reject, castigate, and shame—as though there is some payment that must be made. Under the guise of being “tough on sin” they are “tough on the sinner.” But God’s Word calls us to a different response.
God’s Word calls us to “restore such an one in the spirit of meekness…” (Galatians 6:1) He calls us to “be gentle to all men, apt to teach and patient… in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them a spirit of repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25)
It’s almost like we sometimes believe it’s our responsibility, in the face of failure, to produce conviction in the heart. It’s like we believe if we are “hard on the sinner” we can manufacture remorse. But this doesn’t work. It only produces guilt and shame. It’s not our responsibility to produce conviction—that’s God’s job.
Notice in the verses above—it’s God’s responsibility to produce conviction that leads to repentance, not ours. Our responsibility is to be gentle, apt to teach, and patient with a spirit of meekness. It is our responsibility to focus on restoration.
Sometimes we make it hard for people to make things right. Sometimes our flesh gets in the way. We can become frustrated and offended when someone sins or turns from God. We can think, “I taught them better than that. They know what’s right.” It can frustrate us that someone we loved is running from God. We can take it personally—it’s hurtful.
But God challenges us to be patient, meek, instructing. He calls us to extend grace and to lead others to His grace. He makes it easy for people to make things right.
We want them to pay. He says, “It’s already paid!”
We want them to feel the weight of their sin and hurt. He says, “I took the weight upon myself!”
We want them to feel remorse. He wants to lead them to a point of repentance.
We want justice. He wants forgiveness.
When someone that you love or lead is trapped in sin—respond with grace. Be tough on the sin—don’t excuse it or endorse it. But be compassionate toward the sinner. When someone hurts you by their failure, come quickly to the position of restoration and meekness. Don’t make it personal.
Don’t assume the role of executor when Jesus assumes the role of advocate!
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1, 2)
Let God do the convicting, and you do the reconciling. Let God handle His child His way, and you choose to be gentle, patient, and apt to teach. As a forgiven sinner, made right by the blood of Jesus—reach out in love and grace—and make it easy for others to make it right.
Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)