How do you think Jesus wants you to interact with non-Christians who have a different understanding of morality than you do? Does he want you to yell at them about their sin? Make them feel terrible until they repent? Anyone familiar with the crap spewing out of the mouths of the Westboro Baptists knows that’s not right.
We were happy to see the immediate response from our local pastors when that idiot from Sacramento started ranting about how happy he was that 49 members of the LGBT community in Orlando were killed. Unfortunately, some people are probably under the impression that this moron speaks for all Christians. He doesn’t!!! In my opinion, he doesn’t speak for any of us.
So, does God want us to swing to the other end of that pendulum and pretend he doesn’t care about sin? Well, just about every Hollywood movie in the Box Office plays off humanity’s desire to see things made right. Every person, Christian or not, is negatively affected by sin. So it would be absurd to say God doesn’t care about that.
Often we hear that we should point out people’s sins and tell them to stop…in a loving way. Right? And we apply this to everyone, whether they follow Jesus or not.
Well, guess what. That’s not the example Jesus gave us. Jesus’ example is actually WAY different than the way most Christians address sin today!
Who were the “Non-Christians” in Jesus’ time?
I know what you’re saying. When Jesus was walking around in Jerusalem and Galilee, there were no Christians. Instead, there were Jews and Gentiles. This was sort of like the 1st Century equivalent of Christians and non-Christians. The Jews were God’s people, and the Gentiles were not. And today - though modern Jews might disagree - you might say Christians are God’s people and everyone else is not. Though that could be debated. And, if you do make this distinction, it should never be said in a derogatory way. Because we hope that everyone we know will one day call themselves God’s people. So, why is this important?
Jesus and the Gentiles
If we assume the comparison between Gentiles in the Bible and non-Christians today is valid, then we should look at how Jesus handled these relationships. The Bible doesn’t show a whole lot of interactions between Jesus and Gentiles. Do you know how many are listed? I count 7. And do you know how many times he tells these Gentiles to stop sinning? ZERO! Not once!
1, 2 & 3 ( A Roman, some pigs, and a dog)
He heals a Roman Centurion’s servant without even seeing him. And he didn’t say a word about sin. He drove demons out of two men from a Gentile town and into a herd of pigs. And, again, no mention of sin. And he healed a Canaanite woman’s daughter after basically calling her a dog, yet still not even a mention of sin.
4 & 5 (Two Samaritans: a woman and a leper)
Then there were the two times he talked to Samaritans. First, there was the woman at the well. You probably know the story. And, you might be thinking this was the one time Jesus told a Gentile to stop sinning. Wrong. Read it again. He mentions that she had multiple husbands, but he doesn’t say a word about it being sin. He simply states a fact. It would be like telling your friend his zipper is down. You’re just stating a fact. No judgment. Just stating an irrefutable fact. That’s all Jesus did.
Then there was the Samaritan leper Jesus healed. Remember him? He was the only one that thanked Jesus out of 10 that got healed. Again, no mention of sin. Jesus was disappointed that the others didn’t return (there were probably a few Jews in that group). But he doesn’t mention this man’s sin at all.
6 & 7 (The government: Herod & Pilate)
And the two that usually get forgotten in this list are the government officials at the end of his life. There isn’t much to say about Herod, since Jesus refused to say anything to him. But there was a fairly lengthy conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. Pilate had all kinds of questions for Jesus. And the closest Jesus came to talking about sin was to say, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Not very condemning. But it’s the closest Jesus ever came to telling a Gentile his/her actions were sinful.
Do we have it all wrong?
If Jesus never thought it was important to tell non-Jews to stop sinning, then what makes us think it’s a good idea to do it to non-Christians today? Shouldn’t our relationship with non-Christians mirror Jesus’ relationship with non-Jews? Did you notice Jesus didn’t try to find gentle ways to tell Gentiles to stop sinning? He didn’t even point out their sins! It just wasn’t a priority for him.
Jesus didn’t try to convince the government to make new laws against particular sins. Or try to convince society to accept morals of a God they didn’t even believe in. He didn’t tell non-Jews to “get right with God.” Or whine because the Romans didn’t have the 10 Commandments posted in the Mausoleum of Augustus. And he definitely didn’t turn a person’s private life into a public spectacle like we see Christians doing today.
You know why? Because morality is not the most important thing! God doesn’t say, “Stop sinning and become a Christian.” He just doesn’t do that. But, that’s the message of a lot of Christians today. Sometimes unintentionally. But it’s still there. And it’s still damaging.
Remember our role
Now, I’m not saying Jesus wasn’t concerned with sin. He totally was, and still is. But he was more interested in connecting with people on a personal level. Even God doesn’t expect people to live by his standards when they don’t know him. Don’t we rely on the Holy Spirit for that kind of stuff? So why are we so focused on convincing people to stop sinning before they meet Jesus?
It’s definitely easier to point out sin than it is to actually build a relationship. Just like it’s easier to jump on a regular scale than it is to have your actual body fat measured. But that’s not the best way to measure progress. And condemning people for their sin isn’t the model Jesus gave us.
As Christians, one of our biggest goals is to emulate Jesus, right? So, if we want to know how to interact with non-Christians, we should probably pay attention to the way he did it. It seems so obvious when you put it that way. So, quit telling people about their sin. Stop focusing on the things a person does, and start looking at the person. When people in our lives start moving closer to Jesus, he can deal with all that sin stuff. It’s not your job!
Act like Jesus
We need to focus on being a little more Christ-like. And when I say that, I’m not saying we have to be perfect. I’m not even saying we need to talk about our faith more than we already do. I’m saying we need to show some compassion. Be a good neighbor. Hang out with people that don’t fit the typical Christian cliché. After all, that’s what Jesus did.
The religious people hated him for it, but our job is not to please religious people. Our job is to be a light to the world that draws people to Jesus. And the only way that will work is if people see Jesus in us.
So join Jesus in having compassion for people who don’t know him yet. Be a friend to them when they need it. Encourage them and support them. But stop focusing on their sin. If Jesus doesn’t start there, then neither should you.