“I just don’t see how they could act like that and call themselves a Christian.”
This is a dangerous line of thinking (if I’m talking to you, I’m talking to me) because it puts those of us who think it on the judgment seat, something Jesus didn’t even presume to occupy during His time on earth.
The truth is everyone sins. The only difference between Christians and non-Christians is the presence of the Holy Spirit inside us as a result of our faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ expressed through surrender to His Lordship. The presence of this Holy Spirit doesn’t keep Christians from committing sin, but from being able to relax in that sin. Sooner or later, the charm of whatever sin has won our affection fades, and the conviction (or convincing) of the Holy Spirit that what we are involved in is, in fact, sin and not what we thought it was becomes so burdensome that we have no choice but to lay that sin down at the feet of the One Who rescued us from it in the first place and repent (walk away) with relief.
My concern is this: I believe that too many well-meaning Christians who either have given in to fear, resentment, pride, self-righteousness, and/or unforgiveness and need to repent or simply misunderstand their role in the spiritual lives of their brothers and sisters are making it difficult for those who are experiencing the Holy Spirit’s conviction to recognize it for what it is and respond.
Some of us are so loud (and sometimes obnoxious) that we are drowning out the Holy Spirit’s voice. Yes, God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, but when we go rogue, saying right things the wrong way, making inaccurate assumptions, and drawing incorrect conclusions, we more closely resemble children running with knives than soldiers wielding the Sword of Truth we’ve been issued.
Unchecked, we confuse matters, make people angry, give weary souls reason to believe we are the cause of the weight they carry, put them on the defense, and/or make them think they are too far gone to repent, which is NEVER the case. We drive wounded souls right into the arms of their abuser, a clever Enemy who is only too willing to play the friend we are not when we step outside the role God has assigned us.
This should not, cannot be.
So what are we supposed to do when we notice that a brother or sister is being wooed by the world and wandering off?
We let God woo them back through us. We put aside our own interests, biases, and opinions and love like Jesus told us to without passing judgment. Yes, that involves speaking the truth in love, but our words will ring hollow and build a case for the Enemy—who wants people to believe the Gospel doesn’t have the power to save and transform—if those words aren’t couched in the kind of genuine compassion Jesus showed, buoyed by practical grace and mercy, and punctuated by the kind of complete and unconditional forgiveness only people who have come to terms with their own depravity and the miracle of their own salvation express.
We let them know they are valued.
We let them know they are accepted.
And we make sure they know they are welcome in our midst.
If someone beaten and bloody showed up at your door asking for help (or even if you just observed them wandering by your house unaware of their own condition), would you taunt or blame them? Would you force them to strip naked in the street before sharing space with you, adding shame to abuse?
Of course not!
You would invite them inside, let them know you had no intention of adding to their hurt, and lend them your shower so they could be cleansed in private. When they emerged, you wouldn’t remind them of what happened, talk about any mistakes they may have made, or brag on yourself for doing the decent thing. No, you’d lavish healing ministrations and help them take next steps to freedom without mentioning the past unless absolutely necessary and only then with great empathy and tact.
At least, I hope you would.
This is how we should respond both collectively and as individuals to our brothers and sisters in Christ who have allowed sin to wound them as well.
“But aren’t we supposed to be good stewards with the selves God has given us for the purpose of glorifying Him?”
Absolutely. In fact, the Bible warns us against falling into the sin from which we are trying to rescue others, so if you or the members of your household have a tendency toward the sin your spiritual sibling is trapped in, the rescue you are attempting might be better left to someone who less vulnerable to that particular temptation. Help them find that person.
Likewise, if a rescue attempt would put you or the members of your household in the way of physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual harm, you must certainly protect what God has entrusted to you and refer the suffering soul to someone who can help and is not at risk. At the same time, we must be careful not to confuse “safety” with comfort, prioritize personal agenda over God’s purposes, or make excuses for failing to represent the One Who gave Himself for us.
In the end, we will all give an account for what we did or did not do in Jesus’ name. Until then, let’s all take special care not to interfere with the desperate prayers of broken hearts by becoming roadblocks in the path of prodigals, cherished children of God who simply wandered a little further down the very paths we visit (if you think you don’t, you’re fooling yourself) and got lost.
Each belongs to all, remember? Let’s bring them home!