In high school, I went through a “rough patch,” partly by choice, but mostly not.
From the outside, I’m sure it looked like I was bent on rebellion, but inside, I was coming apart. Trapped by choices I’d made, my soul was grasping, gasping for air.
Fortunately, I knew Jesus. Even when people I should have been able to count on treated me like a leper, the Holy Spirit was there, whispering truth to my spirit, convicting me gently, and guiding me home.
Honestly? Had I not put my faith in Jesus for salvation as a child, I doubt I would have made it through my teenage years. Actually, I know I wouldn’t have.
But I did, and I am forever grateful to those who never turned away from my struggle, who never went silent, who kept smiling, who kept hugging, who kept inviting, who kept listening, who kept giving me opportunities to serve and made me feel like I was worth their time and energy.
They are heroes to me, and you can be the same kind of hero.
How? Love. Love people by obeying God (2 John 1:5-6). Obey God by loving people (John 13:34; Matthew 5:44).
Speak the truth about sin, yes, but don’t make people feel bad about it. That’s not your job! It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, or convince, people of their sin, and He’s really good at it (John 16:8). He does it in a way that leads to repentance and life.
We are NOT good at it. We do it in a way that typically leads to shame and death (2 Corinthians 7:10.
I know it’s hard when you don’t remember ever being held captive by a particular sin or set of sins to identify with someone who is in that situation, but that’s okay. You don’t have to identify. You just have to know that you would be in the same boat were it not for the grace of God and then show the same compassion Jesus—who never sinned, by the way—demonstrated when He came face to face with people harassed by and helpless against their own sin (Matthew 9:36).
Truth? You may actually be in the same boat and not know it. Pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, hatred, slander, gossip, malice, etc.; these are all sins, too, but people don’t talk about them very much. Why? I think it’s because they’re too common, and we’re all too collectively guilty to muster up the gumption to tackle them.
Nonetheless, such sins are just as ugly as any sin that stirs them up. They may not be as sensational, shocking, mockable, or easy to condemn as some other sins, but they are there. Like fluffy little flower weeds that don’t offend too much until they’ve killed all the grass, they are there.
And they are killing us.
They are undermining the work of the Church and hindering the advance of God’s Kingdom that is supposed to be happening through the spread of the gospel of Jesus, a gospel that rings hollow when the people who speak it fail to extend the same mercy and grace to others they claim has saved and made them new.
Make no mistake, friends: no matter how another person’s sin affects us, sin is against God alone. It goes against HIS will and character, not ours. When a person sins, no matter what that sin happens to be, they are just acting like everyone else.
They are acting just like us.
This being true, it’s not our job to decide whether or not a person should be shown grace and mercy; it’s our job to pass God’s grace and mercy along.
We can refuse, of course, and miss a chance to experience God working through us, but God’s purposes will not be thwarted (Ephesians 1:11). He will simply find another way to accomplish His will while we stall out in the fluffy flower weeds, doing more damage to ourselves and others than we can possibly imagine.