“For God so loved the world…” John 3:16
Our small, inner city congregation is a Smorgasbord of God’s children: Afro-Americans, Hispanic brothers and sisters, Messianic believers, Caucasians, a bunch of awesome young people and halfway house residents. Through them, I’ve learned to see people through the Lord’s heart of love, but in my younger days I wasn’t so gracious.
Working retail, my younger self and a coworker observed in disbelief as a small child lay face down, screaming, flailing and twisting like a fish on dry land. I never knew a fish-boy could make so much noise. We glanced at each other, rolled our eyes, pursed our lips and slowly shook our heads. It was an obvious out-of-control mother who was responsible for that kind of behavior I remember saying to my friend. “When I have kids,” I said, “they will NEVER act like that!” I know, some of you are nibbling your knuckles saying, “Uh oh maybe she shouldn’t have said that!”
We all view the world through personal filters and sometimes these filters become a mindset when our ideas “set” just like concrete. When someone holds a perspective differing from ours, we insist he is wrong and we are right. The bible calls these judgments. Along with judgments, we make vows. “My kids will NEVER act like that!” Gulp!
Over the years, the Lord has transformed my filters so that I might see His heart. A few Sundays ago, I underwent more heart change.
Worshiping among my fellow believers my heart broke. I didn’t let out a gentle whimper that could be quieted with a pat on the shoulder or a Kleenex and a hug from a concerned sister. No, this was a heaving, gut wrenching, snotty kind of cry. My Pastor thought I was being touched personally by God’s Spirit. I was being touched all right, but the wailing was not for me but from God’s deeply sorrowful, almost inconsolable heart for people.
Asked to share, the Lord prompted me to cry out for groups of people, one-by-one: drug addicts, prostitutes and prisoners. Pimps, drug dealers and abusers…Wait! These people are really bad,” I thought in a knee-jerk reaction to the Holy Spirit. My heart didn’t mirror God’s heart.
And so the list continued as the Holy Spirit challenged my heart…prideful, greedy, unfaithful, adulterers, lustful, drunkards, gossips, slanderers, liars…My heart weighed the sins—bad, not-so-bad. But, aren’t all sins equal in God’s eyes? Romans 3:23 (GNT) says, “everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence.” We may think some people are more worthy of forgiveness, but no one is worthy.
Like so many, I have categorized sin depending on what I felt was big and bad. In that I do two things: I judge another’s access to the mercy of God and I minimize smaller sins, justifying them as “not that bad”.
Being in this congregation, has solidified my knowledge that we ALL belong at the foot of the cross. There are no exceptions. Take time today and ask the Lord if you have categorized sin. Ask Him to show you, in His Word, how He views sinners. Ask for help in adjusting your thinking to match His perspective.