There was a time when John 3:16 was (without question) the most well-known, most quoted verse in Scripture. It was so prevalent that it was almost cliché. We read it on signs at ballgames, graduation ceremonies, conventions, and on signs outside of businesses. Everyone had heard it; most had read it; lots could quote it.
Today, I doubt that verse still holds the crown, at least among non-Christians. I have no proof, but I expect the title for the most-quoted Bible Verse in America belongs to Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” That verse is known and quoted by Christians and non-Christians alike, and it has become the signature verse, the spiritual mantra, of every group that stands in opposition to the historic teachings of Christianity. It has become a battleground cry against the church from groups that otherwise reject Scripture out of hand.
Whether it is political/social lobbies regarding lifestyle decisions, secular humanists, or cults of all types, the message to the Church from these groups is the same – “Stop judging us. Who are you to pass judgment on us?” And then, to back up their arguments, they quote this verse.
The worst part of this as that these groups don’t just try to justify themselves with scripture – they also try to use Matthew 7:1 to paint the church as Archie Bunker – a group of intolerant, angry, hard-headed, pompous, self-righteous hypocrites – and yes – sometimes we make it pretty easy. If that’s the picture they want to paint, we sometimes give them the paint.
But not always. Often, at least in this age, that image of the ultra-judgmental Christian is overblown. Sure, there are the exceptions, like the folks from Westboro Baptist Church, but have you ever wondered why we all know about them, and yet, few people in the world know about the Churches that are doing things right. Westboro gets all the free publicity they want. Pinedale has to fight to get people to pay attention.
Do you wonder why? It’s because this picture of the ultra-crazy-“I’m going to laugh as you go to Hell” kind of Christian is one that the world wants to see . . . so that they can feel good about rejecting it. And because of that stereotype, the MAJORITY of Christians these days seem to take the other extreme – we just don’t say anything at all. Everything goes. We’ll just make sure we say, “Jesus loves you,” and we try to close our eyes to the other stuff. Now, think for a moment – is that what God wants? Does He want us to close our eyes to sin altogether?
The answer, obviously, is NO. While God certainly doesn’t allow us to occupy His position of Judge over sin, He does call us to live in opposition to it. Our very lifestyles should expose evil and illuminate Truth . . . and sometimes, we have to add voice to actions. In other words, sometimes, those around us need to hear us SPEAK THE TRUTH ABOUT SIN.
So how do we do it? How do we speak truth in LOVE, exposing sin while embracing sinners? How do we love those that live outside of God’s will without giving approval to their lifestyle?
According to Steve Brown, the key is in the tears. To understand that statement, you should CLICK HERE and read his article. Here is an excerpt:
Jesus spoke harsh truth and even rose up with righteous indignation at the con artists in the temple. You will note in the passage in Luke that I mentioned earlier, immediately after the weeping over Jerusalem, Jesus spoke harsh truth about the destruction of Jerusalem and then went to the temple to kick posteriors.
The key is in the tears.
Jesus spoke harsh truth—harsher than anything we will ever speak. He granted grace to the most sinful, angry sinners. He then gave himself in ways that we will never give ourselves. When we speak truth without tears, it’s just condemnation and judgment. When we grant grace and mercy without tears, it’s just self-righteousness. When we give compassion without tears, it’s just moralistic “do-goodism.”
Brown’s point is a good one. The first step in learning to speak TRUTH IN LOVE is to discover the compassion that Jesus had for sinners. He loved them. He cared for them. And He grieved for them – both for their sins and for the pain their sins brought into their life.
That’s the key to speaking for God. We speak as sinners, standing before other sinners, pointing them to a God of Grace. When they err and we sense danger, we have an obligation to speak. That’s not judgment; that’s compassion. But as we speak, we must be sure to remember the tears. After all, our world is dark and hurting, but God loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.