I am writing this in response to many of the comments/emails I received after my last post.
The amount of people who engaged in that post was kinda overwhelming.
So, this is my response to much of the feedback I received. For those of you who know me, you know I tell it like I see it. As always, I’m being pretty transparent and you’re getting a wide look inside. Halving that said, this is my heart. This comes from years of conversation with God and researching scripture for my own benefit on this question. Take it as you will.
The constant question for Christians seems to be this: when/how do you speak truth to someone? (I don’t even know if I like the way that question is worded. But, whatever. We’ll go with it for now)
When it comes to this topic, people love to use the story of the woman caught in adultery. Myself included. It’s a beautiful story.
There are those who like to highlight when Jesus told her to “go and sin no more” And there are those who want to focus on when he said, “he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
But, Jesus said both.
I’ve heard it argued to speak both truth and love or truth and mercy. I know where you’re coming from. But, here me out.
I was raised in church. I’ve heard this preached SO many times I could recite a ton of sermons on this.
All in all, I grew up with the impression that if I didn’t strong arm someone in a conversation to repent (someone CLEARLY living in sin. Wink wink) then I had failed.
You mean you didn’t get them to pray the prayer of salvation right there? FAIL.
You didn’t invite them to church? FAIL.
You didn’t recite the scriptures that correct them? FAIL.
That is what I left my upbringing in church with.
A report card.
One that leaves a TREMENDOUS amount of pressure I might add.
Funny thing is, Jesus said if we followed Him, living in Jesus would be easy – light even. (Matt 11:30)
Nothing about that felt easy. Or light.
Over the past 10 or so years I’ve been on a journey of trying to leave a lot of the churchy stuff out of my head and focusing on just HIM instead. HIS words. HIS example.
Not that I don’t have a TON of good that has come from being raised in church. Please don’t misread that sentence. But, in this area, the lines drawn seemed harsh….and very difficult to practice let alone see any sort of “result” that I was told (eh, encouraged) to achieve.
So, here’s where I have landed.
And, I’ll be honest, it’s really easy. And feels REALLY light. Kinda like how Jesus said it would.
Ironically, I’m going back to the story of the adulterous woman.
Track with me.
Jesus extended mercy and compassion to someone whose “sin” (issue, hang up, struggle, choice, whatever you want to call it) was exposed.
She was vulnerable.
She was scared.
She was out in the open.
And the stones were ready to fly.
The amazingly freeing part of this story is what Jesus says to the religious leaders.
Did you catch that?
What he said to the religious. The churched. The “Christians” (if you will).
What he said was to you and me.
He said, “He who is without sin (issues, hang ups, struggles) throw the first stone”.
I may not have an “exposing” sin or issue or whatever you want to label it. One that I wear out in the open. One that the church would hurl stones at (throw Bible verses, condemning looks, hold prayer sessions for, etc). But, let me be the first to stand up and tell you, I am NOT without sin, issues, etc. My heart is in a constant place of being molded and shaped by the hand of Jesus. It’s a constant renewing process that is FAR from being over.
I am not perfect.
Therefore I literally am commanded by Jesus to sit myself down and take a hard look inward before I ever think I am in a position to go after someone else.
In his final exchange with the woman, Jesus through his kindness, led her to exchange her lifestyle for his instead.
Jesus led her.
Not the religious.
Both parts of the story. Both equally important.
So, where does that leave you and me?
I will not give you the blanket response of, “we just love”.
Too many people have said that.
Too many people think that means you just smile and don’t shun.
I would argue that isn’t really love.
That’s just being polite.
Here’s how love looks to me now.
And, I’m warning you – it requires you to be recklessly, on your face in love with Jesus first. If you’re not there, don’t even attempt this.
Love shares long talks over coffee. Where I share my story and you are safe to share yours. Love gets in the mud with you and walks with you. Even if the walk is LONG and all I’m doing is listening. Love opens the door of my home and welcomes you in for a meal. Love holds your baby. Love stretches outside of churches and Bible studies and jumps into someone’s life. On the phone, in the car, at work. It isn’t scared of seeing your life and being inside of it. Love is the opposite of fear.
Love holds your hand when you’re scared. Love takes you soup when you’re sick. Love listens. Really listens.
When I walk in life with someone like this, I move past tolerance and acceptance. I get to dig into something deeper: unconditional love.
Which is what scripture says sums up the entire law, gospel, message, etc.(Gal 5:14)
But, Anna! When you do ever confront their sin??! Doesn’t love speak truth?
If I share life with you, I naturally share Jesus with you. Because it isn’t a power point presentation or a scripted pitch. It’s my life.
Having that said, not everyone lets me in their life.
I have to be okay with that.
Not everyone let Jesus in either.
It’s part of the deal.
It has been my experience that if I speak without the prompting of the Holy Spirit, anything I say falls on deaf ears.
This applies when I teach, write and yes, even when I’m having coffee with someone.
I don’t talk about any topic until the Holy Spirit tells me to.
The key is, it’s never on my time table.
And it’s never my words.
It’s always His.
I’ve had the honor and privilege of walking alongside people in this way. And, it isn’t always neat and packaged. There is no script (other than the one the Holy Spirit gives you). It’s often messy. It’s at times inconvenient. At the core, it’s self-less. It’s laying down yourself and serving.
Sometimes you get praised.
Sometimes you get crucified.
It’s living like Jesus.
(I blogged about my journey jumping into life with someone like this here)
But Anna, what about the Bible?
I love the Bible. I love, love LOVE it. It’s my life-line. It is my litmus test for everything I say and do and (more importantly) what goes on inside my thoughts and heart. It sets the standard.
Everything I believe, teach, say and do is founded in scripture.
Especially how I love.
Here’s why I believe Jesus told us to love like this:
Because, it’s in this place – only in this place – where He has room to reach into an otherwise hard, closed, lonely, broken heart.
And that’s where I focus.
I focus on the heart – the broken, beat up heart. I love it, I minister to it. I embrace it. And, at times, I get to experience the power of Jesus heal it.
Not because I quoted the right verse.
Not because I said the script I was taught to say.
Not because I pressured someone into saying a prayer.
ONLY because I stopped my life, my desires, my agenda and chose to love someone (through the power of the Holy Spirit) who was hurting.
Having that said, I don’t claim to win anyone.
I don’t claim to change anyone.
Thank you Jesus that’s not my burden to bear.
Because, this is HIS field. I’m just working with Him in it (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
But, Anna, we’re supposed to be preaching the gospel!
My life preaches the gospel.
If we were to have coffee, you would know that.
It’s in me. I’m breathing it every minute of every day.
Because I know HIM.
Because HE changed me.
He wrecked me with a love and a freedom that NOTHING compares to.
In sharing life, we share stories. And mine is all about Jesus.
My hope for all of us is that we become SO deeply rooted and established IN HIM, that when a broken heart comes our way, we have eyes to see it and ears to listen to what He leads us to say or do.
Not judge it. Not shush it. Not even fix it.
But, love it.
I love people by listening to the Holy Spirit through every conversation and every encounter. And, in turn, by speaking the words He gives me.
Like I said before, if you’re not completely ALL in with Him, don’t even attempt this.
Some of you will understand this post and some of you won’t. I’m okay with that. But, for those that get it, I believe it will bring a tremendous amount of freedom.