Can I begin with a personal anecdote? In writing this article, I was humbled as it challenged me on every spiritual and emotional level.
I suppose it is human nature to become frustrated toward a specific person or group of people whose beliefs differ from our own. Daily, I am frustrated by the brazen actions of those who openly support abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, and false doctrines. While I am frustrated toward other actions and lifestyles that are condemned by the word of God, these four specific issues appear to be at the forefront of the spiritual and political polarization within this great nation. Each day, I study my Bible and see the error of these ideologies – sometimes feeling as Isaiah did with Jezebel, alone and helpless to fight against them. In speaking from personal experience, it is quite easy to direct my own personal frustrations toward these issues onto certain individuals, who either embody or advocate the ideologies that most irritate my spirit. In those moments, I find it easy to resort to the instinctual comeback that appears to be embedded in all of humankind, “I am right, you are wrong.” However, in my moments of vexation, I fail to realize that it is not the sinner that should be at the focus of my frustrations but rather the sin. It is in my empathy toward the sinner that I recognize they are a victim of sin much like myself. The difference is: They continue to cling to sin believing they shall find freedom and justice in their error, while I have been freed from sin through the Truth in God’s Word. In my empathy toward sinners, I recognize the urgency of bringing salvation those who are dying in sin, the very mission of Christ, (c.f., Luke 19:10).
Did Jesus not encounter those, daily, who He disagreed with and who frustrated His spirit? Jesus dealt with false teachers, corrupt political leaders, and those who were living proudly in their sin. In Matthew 23, as Jesus made His final entry into Jerusalem and walked in the shadow of the cross, Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, the multitudes, and His disciples. On this occasion, Jesus unloaded on the scribes and Pharisees. He accused them of hypocrisy, (v. 13), materialism, (v. 16-19), abusing justice, (v. 23-24), lawlessness, (v. 28), and murder, (v. 31). While the scribes and Pharisees were rightfully guilty of these charges, the concluding message of Jesus, in this chapter, puzzles me as an imperfect, sometimes unforgiving, sinner, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”, (Matthew 23:37; NKJV). Now, wait a minute. These scribes and Pharisees were guilty of all these crimes and more. In fact, through His omniscience, Jesus knew in three days these very same people, whom He spoke too, would crucify Him on the cross. However, do not miss the significance of this moment. In a moment of triumph, Jesus stares into the face of His murderers and says, (in my own words), “Though you are going to kill Me, if you were willing, I would have brought you salvation and protected you.” The crucifixion of Christ is the ultimate demonstration of the command to love our enemies, as Christ died for those who hated Him, (c.f., Matthew 5:44). Despite their murderous intent, Jesus so diligently sought the salvation of the Jews that, as He beheld the city of Jerusalem, He was moved to tears, (c.f., Luke 19:41).
How can we apply this attitude of Jesus to our own lives? To Jesus, the love of God did not resemble the mantra of imperfect sinners, found in the words, “I am right, you are wrong.” To Jesus, the love of God was not found in taking out our frustrations upon others through hurtful memes or nicknames. To Jesus, the love of God was not found in snide comments left in a social media post to justify an incoherent argument based upon one-sided facts. To Jesus, the love of God was a sacrificial love that deepened toward others, despite their sin, through honest and loving arguments. The love of God recognizes the urgency of bringing salvation to one dying in their sins while also realizing this God-ordained mission cannot be accomplished outside of love.
Our attitude should not be one of frustration, such as, “I am right, you are wrong!” Our attitude should always be one of love, such as, “I was once wrong too, but let me show you the Book that is always right.”