January 24, 2014

Creating A Consistent Lifestyle

I felt frustration as I listened to a successful pastor friend share his view of loving people trapped in sin.
He did not use the word sin, my mind used the word sin.  I felt sad as the message of compromise arose from his story.  It sounded like the culture of the world had infiltrated his ministry.  To my friend loving people and embracing them included approving of unrighteousness .  There was no delineation in his story between a Godly lifestyle and life in the world apart from Jesus.  I understood his compassion and his devotion to love.  I also know that in order to be imitators of Jesus we need to love with an incorruptible love.  
Jesus knew that there would always be tension between living a kingdom lifestyle and becoming absorbed by the world.  Jesus says that his love inside of us is greater than anything we face in the world (1 John 4:4).   It requires intentionality, wisdom and maturity to embrace people trapped in darkness with God's love and not embrace their sin.  I think fear is often responsible for our inability to untangle a person from their behavior and love them like Jesus does.  Jesus also understood how fear often drives hearts that haven't experienced his perfect love.  1 John 4:18 is straightforward in stating that there is no fear in God's love.  When we are afraid of a person's negative lifestyle choices we often react inappropriately; we either bless what needs to be addressed or we ignore and reframe.  This is not conducive to setting captives free.

I confess that I am not an emotional thinker and that I usually have an opinion on most matters.  However I have matured in harnessing my opinions unless they are solicited.  My pastor friend asked if I agreed with his theology.  My response was prefaced with assurance that I clearly do not have the complete answer to this tension.  The challenge at hand is loving and embracing people and their unresolved issues, sharing the path to freedom with them while not compromising our personal spirituality.  We must understand that God is the only one who can set a person free.  I explained that this tension can only be addressed if we are not threatened by sin and in the context of a healthy relationship.  This tension can only be welcomed into lives of those who know they aren't God.  So my answer to my friend was a 'no' spoken in love.  In order to lead people to freedom we can't patronize ungodliness.

We create consistent lifestyles when we are committed to truth.  When we speak the truth in love it releases words that have the power to unlock darkness and provide opportunity for God's love to begin transforming people.  The threat at this point is believing that we have to defend God's truth by making sure that people are comprehending our words.  This usually takes the shape of preaching, judging, shaming people into agreeing with God.  It actually is reduced to wanting people to agree with us.  I frequently watch people speak truth to hurting people with a smile and end with red faces shouting judgements about their life.  This must amuse God.

If we desire to help people trapped in darkness who want to be free we need to grow up in our ability to love.  A few questions might help to evaluate your spiritual maturity level.
What do you 'feel' when you talk to people who are living a sinful lifestyle?
What do you 'think' about people who don't understand God's standards?
What is your role in setting people free?

"But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head even Christ, from whom the whole body being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love".  This is a great guide for co-laboring with God by following his leading.  It releases us from the results of speaking God's truth.  This is a principle that will equip us to grow in love and develop the character of Jesus. When we set God's standards as a constant in our lives we creating lifestyles that aren't shaken by the world.  If you long to love people the way Jesus loves people, I suggest starting with a difficult person who you disagree with.