I’ve noticed that so many Christians immediately confront the sins of unbelievers when they attempt to evangelize them and advance the Kingdom of God. I ask, “Is that the right approach?” The answer is really quite simple: No. It is not the right approach. And I’m going to tell you why. Let’s begin with a passage for Scripture that everyone knows.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”- John 3:16
Most of us know what this means. Out of an unimaginable love for His Creation, God sent His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for mankind. This sacrifice would allow us to experience a right relationship with God. We now had free access to the Father. We could walk right into the Holy of Holies. We no longer need a middle-man (priest). Now look at the next two verses.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” -John 3:17-18
Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world. We see this in John 8.
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them,“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”- John 8:1-11
Let me transition for a minute and talk about this passage.
In their effort to trap Jesus, the Pharisees actually twisted the law. The law would require both parties involved in the adultery to be killed. They only brought the woman. This was likely a set up by the Pharisees. Jesus answered in such a way that he could not be accused of anything. If he would have completely dismissed the case, then the authorities could have accused him of not supporting the Jewish law. He still spoke of throwing stones, but prevented them from taking the matter into their own hands.
We also, however, need to be careful that we don’t use Jesus’ words to justify sin in the CHURCH. The Word teaches that blatant sins committed by those within the CHURCH are not to be tolerated. These issues should be confronted and exposed by God’s loving grace. Notice the emphasis on “Church.” It’s important.
I also want to look at the second part of verse 11 above: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus’ whole attitude in this situation amazes me when I read this. It reflects his purpose of forgiving sins and restoring people’s relationship with God. He doesn’t condemn her because she is unfit for forgiveness. Instead, he treats her kindly and with mercy in order to lead her to repentance. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus doesn’t look on sin lightly, but he gives us the opportunity to turn from our sinful ways and live as part of God’s Kingdom.
How many times do we, as Christians, exclude people from the Cross because we believe their sins are too great? By doing that we are saying what Jesus did wasn’t good enough to save them. That just drives people away from Jesus! That’ s beyond wrong. Sadly, I’ve caught myself doing that before. I just pray that I don’t exclude people from salvation. I have to remind myself that I still sin and at one point I was just like them.
Now you may be asking something like “Where are you going with this?” or “Why the emphasis on ‘Church’?”
The Holy Spirit is NOT concerned with the sin of the unbeliever as we see it. He is concerned with the unbelief. The reason why is because it is the belief or the faith in Christ that will save us (John 3:16, 18). Verse 18 makes it clear that unbelief is what will condemn you to hell. When they come to a saving relationship with Christ, that is when the Spirit will begin the process of sanctification (which is a life-long process). When an unbeliever come to believe in Christ, that’s when the Spirit will begin to address the sin in that life. So our job as believers is to help lead unbelievers to a belief in Christ. It is not to condemn them for our sins. That will do nothing because they don’t have the Spirit to convict them yet.
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