“When we love people exactly as they are, which is how we are loved, we invite them into the possibility of eventually becoming what God knows they can become when the reconciling work of Christ is fully manifested in their lives.” Gregory A. Boyd1
When we focus on sin, we have a tendency to identify and accuse, and treat people as “less than.” We rate sins on a scale, and appraise any sins we deem to be abhorrent to us higher on our personal scale. At the same time, we count any sins we might be guilty of as lower in severity or absent entirely from the same scale.
If we truly have an intimate relationship with God – that is, if we accept the unconditional love of our Father, receive the grace and reconciliation of Jesus and abide daily in the Spirit – then we accept people as Jesus did. We meet them where they are without judgment. We love them not because we wish to save them from everlasting punishment, but because we wish to see them restored into the grace-filled embrace of our Father.
You see, as we love unconditionally and with compassion through God’s eyes, we begin to understand clearly what the statement above means. Our underlying intention to love comes not from fear, but from generous, scandalous grace. What was God’s intention?
“For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead He is here to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17)
In the story in John 8:1-11 of the adulterous woman and the religious leaders who brought her to Jesus, why is it we recall Jesus told her to sin no more, but don’t remember Jesus admonition to the religious leaders – the moral of the story – for accusing her in the first place?
In the five verses in Matthew 7:1-5 of the log and the splinter, why do we adamantly quote the half-verse about seeing well enough to take the speck out of our friend’s eye, but conveniently forget the preceding four-and-a-half verses in which Jesus exhorts us to not judge others and to focus on our own shortcomings?
For if judging prevents even one person from turning toward God, haven’t we harmed instead of helped? Haven’t we placed a barrier between an individual – or groups of people – and our God who wants to reconcile all people to Himself?
Don’t owe anyone anything, with the exception of love to one another—that is a debt which never ends—because the person who loves others has fulfilled the law. The commands given to you in the Scriptures—do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not take what is not yours, do not covet—and any other command you have heard are summarized in God’s instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Does love hurt anyone? Absolutely not. In fact, love achieves everything the law requires. (Romans 13:8-10)
Change His words all you want; tell yourself judging is merely “tough love.” Find reasons in the Old Testament to persist in criticizing and condemning. But remember Jesus ushered us into a New Covenant. The heart and words of Jesus, if you believe in him, freed us to become new beings no longer captive to that law.
He continually tells us He did not judge, therefore we should not judge, to focus on our own behavior and to look beneath the surface of someone else’s actions.
As for me, I will keep following Jesus. I will persist in passing along His words. I will abide in His light and intention for us. Richard Rohr said it beautifully:
“I quote Jesus because I still consider him to be the spiritual authority of the Western world, whether we follow him or not. He is always spot-on at the deeper levels and when we understand him in his own explosive context. One does not even need to believe in his divinity to realize that Jesus is seeing at a much higher level than most of us.” 2
1©2004, Gregory A. Boyd, Repenting of Religion p.193, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI
2©2011, Richard Rohr, Falling Upward p.81, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA