I have lived an incredibly condemned life, mostly because my sins and wrongdoings have always been outward, obvious things. Sins of the flesh, I guess you call them. Lying, cheating, rage, gluttony, intoxication… things that people could see and comment on and judge me for. And I suppose I earned that judgment; after all, you cannot do wrong things and get away with it. Sin always finds you out one way or the other.
But I wonder how much better the world would be if everyone focused on a different kind of sin–those sins of the heart, those sins that are secret things that come out in ways that cannot be pointed to directly. Some that come to mind are pride, jealousy, envy, motives, hunger for power, desire for fame, love of money, bitterness… What would life be like if these soul sins were pointed out and corrected as much as the outward things that people do?
When you get finished pointing fingers at people who visibly fall, have you really monitored your own heart? Have you been honest with yourself about what is hidden in there? The prodigal son parable is the best example–how the one son who went out into the world and did fleshly things is always the one pointed out at church, how even though he made all these bad decisions his father took him back in with love and joy.
But few people ever talk about the ugly spirit of the older brother who stayed behind. His anger at his brother being welcomed back, his envy of his brother’s boldness for leaving in the first place. His false expectation that he would take his brother’s place, that honor and love only be conferred on h because he did not “do” anything wrong.
Or what about the parable of the praying pharisee and the tax collector? The pharisee stood there and basically oozed pride at how awesome he thought he was, when really he was a horrible, prideful person only interested in impressing his peers as he put others down.
Too many people in the church today live like the older brother and the pharisee, so quick to point out with glee how others are failing at life. But they do not see their own, worse hypocrisy: self righteousness in their own work and harden hearts that turn people away from God’s love like they have VIP access to God and the rest of us have to stand outside. Which is a lie–there is no more need for gatekeepers like in the old testament. Jesus made God’s Presence available to us all regardless of what sins we have committed.
I am not proud of the things that I have done wrong; but all those things have given me the kind of heart to love people the way God requires. I can see wrongdoing and not pass judgment on the person even as I try to help them out of the sin they are in. I don’t think I am better than anybody just because my sins looked different than theirs. I believe that everyone deserves a chance at redemption in this life because JESUS paid the price for that redemption already.
I have compassion. And that is what the church and all its “country club” glory is missing. Compassionate hearts that look beyond the fault to see the need–like God did for us all–instead of seeing if we make the list based on the sins we commit or if we play by some made up rules designed to keep others out of the group.
So to those of you out there who have fallen and done wrong things, I want to remind you that people look at the outside, but God looks at your heart. And if you give Him your heart, He will begin to make the outside match up with the inside. Don’t let hardhearted self righteous people keep you stuck where you are. The way out is available to you. God is waiting for you with open arms. He has already forgiven you–He is just waiting for you to accept the forgiveness and come home.