The message can't be any clearer than in John 3:3: "John 3:3 -- "Jesus answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.'"
If indeed the Bible is the true, infallible Word of God--and it is--then one must believe upon and call upon the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. Pastor Jack Hayford says that "being newborn, or "born again," means that your inner spirit has been brought into a new relationship with God through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ."
If we believe that the Bible is without error—and it is—there is no denying that; nobody can refute that. But consider this: Is it necessary for believers, or "so-called believers," to shove that down the throats of non-believers and those drowning in sin? Isn't there a better way—a more compassionate way to reach the lost WITHOUT compromising the truth of the gospel?
Certainly there must be. Whether it be the deceived homosexual, the atheist, the Jew or the Muslim, believers in Jesus Christ MUST find a way to communicate the message of the Truth without condemnation. With the direction our society and our world is headed, there doesn't seem to be a lot of that going around. We must make them want to have what Jesus wants for them. I Timothy 2:3-4 says, "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior, who desires ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
That includes the woman from John 8 who was caught in adultery. The Pharisees and scribes brought this woman to Jesus, saying that the law commanded her to be stoned for her sin. They asked Jesus what he would do.
"If you look at Jesus and boiled it down to theological position, you might say that this lined up pretty well with those of the Pharisees," says Adam Barr, the co-author of Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth. "He didn't disagree with the people's opinions about her sin. What he took them to task with is their absolute lack of compassion, their spiritual blindness to their own need for grace. We're not political activists and we're not moral philosophers. First and foremost, we are people of the gospel. For believers to have a real voice of real world people, we have to begin with the gospel. It's about guilt, grace and gratitude."
Jesus' answer about the woman caught in adultery? He said, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7, MEV). When the angry mob had laid down their stones and walked away, Jesus asked her, "Woman, where your accusers? Did no one condemn you? ... Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." (John 8:10, 12, MEV).
Jesus didn't condemn the woman, but neither did he ignore or condone her sin. He told her to leave her life of sin. Jesus stands ready to forgive any sin in your life, but confession and repentance mean a change of heart. With God's help, we can accept Christ's forgiveness and stop our wrongdoing. We need to recognize our own sinful nature and look for ways to help others rather than hurt them.
It's God's role to judge, not ours. It's our role to show forgiveness and to share the gospel with compassion. If you have done that—if you have shown them kindness without compromise and continue to pray for them—then you have done what God asks. When you have done your job, then allow the Holy Spirit to do its job, and that's to convict the person's heart of his or her sin.
If they continue in their sin without repentance, then that situation is between themselves and God, and they will have to answer for it. As will we all.
A Charisma reader recently said it well: "We need to tell people the truth of God's Word, and the Holy Spirit will do His work to convict them of their sin, leading them to repentance."
Are we taking the log out of our own eye, or are we simply pointing fingers? Let's be clear: There is a difference between speaking the truth in love and pointing the finger of scorn.
"If so-called Christians are doing that, I would remind them of the grace that Jesus has shown them," said Ron Citlau, a pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and a former member of the gay community who also co-authored Compassion Without Compromise. "They should honestly reflect upon the sins that they are ashamed of—or that they're not ashamed of--that nobody knows about. God is gracious to everyone. Don't these people deserve the same grace as you?"
Great point. Pretty simple, isn't it?
So what can we do to show compassion without compromising the truth of God's Word? Citlau says we, as believers, need to stop being so angry and defensive, reactions that are sure to repel those who might be willing to listen to the truth.
"One of the first things we can do is to stop worrying about being right in the sense of winning an argument," Citlau says. "What we need to be concerned about in the cultural debate is being winsome in the telling of the story of the gospel of Jesus to anyone who wants it. We have to be in the public debate, but we really need to love the people whom we are discussing the subject with. We need to embody the kindness and gentleness that Jesus did, but in a confident manner. Jesus said to love your enemies, didn't he?"
For part one of this two-part series, click here.
Shawn A. Akers is the online managing editor of Charisma Media.
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