I think we tend to have this odd, twisted perception of God’s grace sometimes and it causes a misunderstanding about how we as Christians should treat others (Christians or not) when they mess up. There are a lot of different ways to respond when you hear someone’s deepest secrets about their past, and I am not dismissing that sometimes there are painful decisions and consequences we all face because we’re human.
I believe it’s in moments of giving advice to others and walking people through to the other side of their mistakes that we find what’s really holding our own faith together. It’s our chance to show people how God sees them: chosen, forgiven, loved, and holy. It’s not a chance for us to condemn, shame, point fingers, tell them what they shoulda-coulda done so we can look like the perfect ones. We are only able to show people how God sees them when we have been changed by His heart for ourselves. Our reaction to others’ mistakes is often related to our view of God.
An attitude of condemnation teaches others that it’s all about playing the part of the “good Christian” and following the rules so God will like us. But I have great news: God has always loved us despite any good or bad action. That love from Him is never earned because it has always existed anyway.
Perfectionism and legalism say that we have to act good so that we are then worthy of God’s grace; anything below perfect has a negative connotation (side note: as a fellow perfectionist, the struggle is so real but it is okay to mess up). But this is a completely self-centered perspective rather than Christ-centered. If we are going to live in freedom, we have to change our thought process. So whether it’s to experience the fullness of God’s grace for yourself, or help someone else along the way, here are some things to keep in mind:
- You are not defined by your sin.
You have heard this 100 too many times especially if you have grown up in church, and it’s probably getting old, but I just reminded you again because it’s a true and powerful statement. John 1:42 describes Jesus and his first disciples, and Jesus gave Simon son of John the new name of Peter. Peter means “rock”, specifically for the foundation on which a church is built. The irony here is that Peter was the exact opposite: he was unstable and doubtful, but Jesus called him Peter based on what he would become solely by God’s grace. The Bible gives us a living example of how God sees us as a new person through His grace, and any damaged view of ourselves does not change this love!
- We are not the standard for someone’s actions; Jesus is.
A lot of times the most finger-pointing will come from people with hidden baggage because they may not have fully received the freedom of grace, so they depend on their human ability to play the part of God. We can’t afford to be the ones who allow our pride to get in the way of someone’s freedom and breakthrough because there’s just no time for it. Ultimately, are you looking for the credit and control, or do you want others to truly catch a glimpse of God’s heart?
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” -2 Corinthians 10:12
- Conviction is not the same as condemnation.
Conviction is from the Holy Spirit to gently draw us closer to the heart of God. It brings freedom, surrender, and sheds light on situations that seem dark. Condemnation often brings feelings of fear and shame, and also keeps us bonded to our sin while often keeping it hidden. Many times when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we have to take physical action to break free and this might be scary depending on the circumstances. However, the fear in each conviction and condemnation is much different: conviction makes it hard to stay the same in your sin, while condemnation will bring fear that causes you to hide.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2
- Obligation versus love:
When we receive and experience God’s grace and love, we realize that we truly do not deserve it. It is out that recognition that we obey and please God. This is the difference between a love-driven action rather than religiously following “rules” and “what-not-to-dos.”
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” –Titus 2:11-12
- Nonbelievers are being misled.
It’s tough when we care about the hearts of people when they’re not living for God. But our harsh attitudes leave people running scared (or not even caring) and staying bonded to sin because of how we Christians have treated their mistakes. They are left with a misleading perception of who God is, and for the thousandth time they’re over being preached at. But our example of living according to the dos and don’ts is a life living in bondage and walking on eggshells in order to maintain the perfect picture that people have from the outside. It is the most destructive way and it’s the opposite of living in freedom under God’s beautiful grace that Jesus paid for. This was the gift of the cross, and it has gotten lost in translation because of our desire to keep things looking pretty and put-together from the outside.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:7;18
Be reminded that we are privileged to live for God and obey Him. It’s not a chore, rather we do it out of love because we are so rarely chosen and treasured in the midst of our biggest mistakes. Because of the cross, we are not bound by the slavery to the law. We don’t have to spend our lives gaining God’s freedom and approval like we so often do for people. Allow this transformation in yourself to be a light that points others to the same truth.