You probably know those of whom I speak - they live alongside you, probably wearing a fish badge, cross or some other Christian symbol (and a fish on the car too).
The problem lies in that what they say isn't Christian (even though it might sound it) and the fruit of their finger-pointing condemnation is the wounding of people and the very denial of what Christianity is about.
They mean well (so did Hitler, as my Dad used to say!) and are often repeating what they hear from the pulpits in their 'heaven assured' gatherings.
Sadly (or is that thankfully?) wrong opinions are not restricted to 'Christians' as some experiences over the past week shows for:
I heard someone talking about how Eastern Europeans are the new 'people of colour' (not quite how they said it!) and they seemed offended that I was offended by that view!
I found those who mastered in the fine art of the ad hominem - the ability to tear down and discount others because they live in the wrong place (physically and spiritually) were unemployed, addicted, marginalised and the like.
I heard those who claim to be Christian proclaiming that '_____________' [insert issue] was THE defining sin!
Having defined the 'one true defining sin' they droned on about how God would whip the sinners behindsides and how they (the sinners) were going to burn in hell (have to define who 'they' is because I'm not so sure who the burnees are going to be).
Here's my thesis statement*:
'Jesus came into the world to save sinners+.'
Betterer still is that the words are, as Paul tells us, 'trustworthy' and ought to be made our own. Add to this thinking the words of John 3.16 (which explicitly states that Jesus came not to condemn but redeem sinners) and we have guidance in the way that we (as Christians) deal with, and relate to, those who are caught in sin (and aren't we all?)!
For those us you who like to point at 'sinners'. What we should be saying is:
'These are the very people Jesus came into the world to save and reconcile to God - not condemn!'
(please note - this does not make us 'permissive' - inclusive and loving Church is not permissive)
I'm assuming we don't want to deny salvation to them and go against the Boss, do we? So here's what we do when we see 'sinners' - It's a great piece of Pauline teaching (don't get excited - nothing to do with women's ministry):
When we see someone sinning, we:
i. Check our own life (Matt 7 helps a bit here too in limiting hypocrisy with regard to judging).
ii. Make sure we know what the sin is and understand why the person is doing it and try to understand them (and form a relationship if we can).
iii. Find out what the Bible says about 'the sin' and when we understand that we're equipped to dialogue with them biblically.
iv. GENTLY! Don't rush in waving our Bible and condemning people - remember that righteous anger is merely anger packaged up to make us appear holy when often we are not!
v. Look to restore them - not condemn (or make yourself look right) - and reconcile them to God.
vi. Continuously examine ourselves - our motives, actions and the sinful person we are to ensure that opportunities for a wrong mindset are minimised and the potential for a Christlike heart and maximised.
vii. Lead the 'sinners' to a place where engagement and dialogue can be enacted and change and learning (them and us) can take place.
So give it a go: Get it right and we'll bring others into a relationship with God. Do it wrongly and we invite the condemnation of the Church (and of Christ) because of our cruel and self-righteous hypocrisy.
Happy Friday Folks
* Yes, you were right all those years ago William, it is the opening statement!
+ 'Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . .'