Jesus is a FRIEND to SinnersWednesday, June 09, 2010
One of the most bizarre manifestations of Christians is to villanize or even demonize others. I am so guilty of this it's not even funny. I have done this SO many times. But how little grace it shows based on the kind of love the Father has for us in Jesus Christ.
Here's how it works. Someone ticks me off. They make me made. They offend me.
Or perhaps they offend a family member or friend of mine.
It happened just today. My son came home having been bullied by a girl. He was absolutely humiliated. They were playing some sort of game at school today that involved kicking a ball. When it came his turn, he kicked it, and it happened to go out of bounds, striking a girl in the back. So she proceeded to chase him all over the school yard until she caught him by his hair, pulled him down the ground by the hair, and with some of the foulest language imaginable prefacing the word b----, she demanded an apology from him, asking another guy to come over and hold him down until she had hurt him enough.
I was infuriated. I felt my blood pressure rising. I wanted to go to school tomorrow with him, find the girl, and....
That's when the villanizing began. She turned into a foul creature in my heart and mind. I demonized her, envisioning her as some hateful, demon-possessed creature, intent on the destruction of my son. I felt hatred swelling up inside toward the girl. I wanted to teach her a lesson with some severe physical force. Then I calmed down, and the Spirit brought to my remembrance that the anger of man doesn't accomplish the righteousness of God.
That's just one example of how it works.
It happens too often in the local church...at least in my experience. Someone does something that somehow brings them down a few degrees or levels in our respect. The way we used to view them in our minds and hearts degrades. The enemy enters in, takes advantage of the offense or the occurrence and begins to make them out to be a villain, if not a demon. Conspiracy theories about the person are born. We begin imagining them doing all sorts of other evil, perverted things.
Then we may take it to another level. The way we think about them has gone unchecked, and this leads us to talk about them...in a bad way...but in the name of Jesus, of course. It most often occurs in conversations where we want to appear holy and caring for the person...perhaps in a prayer meeting or something like that. But the way we talk about them doesn't really uphold respect and esteem for them as someone for whom Christ shed His blood.
This turns into gossip...then slander...then villainy...the demonizing. The relationship degrades both personally and conversationally. And we grow to believe about them and treat them as if they are evil, vile villains who are quite possibly oppressed or even possessed by demons, if not Satan himself.
The most frustrating way in which this has occurred recently is the treatment a pastor friend of mine receives in his local area. He's a Calvinist. So what. He was ousted from his pastorate along with 30% of the church because he preached the Bible...and they got convicted. I've never seen my friend angry, sinful, hurtful, or vengeful toward these people...or anyone else for that matter. And I was there on the night he got ousted. There was nothing but calm, peaceful, love and care for the people who were hurting him.
But gossip and slander has circulated in the town to the degree that out of all the other pastors in his area (a couple of dozen in his denomination I think), only two will give him the time of day. The others hate him. On one occasion he attended another local church in town where a state denominational representative was preaching. This man began talking to my friend. But the pastor who seems to hate my friend interrupted the conversation, pulled him aside, and began to pass along the gossip and slander about my friend...whom he'd never met before in his entire life, by the way. What was so sad was that the pastor stood up in the pulpit and declared his sadness regarding the fact that no pastors had been attending the meetings when the denominational representative was preaching...completely ignoring the fact that my friend was sitting right there in the congregation...and completely neglecting the reality that my friend had just prayed with the pastor and the denominational representative. That's just hateful. My friend has been villanized and demonized.
Contrast this with how Jesus treated sinners. My favorite example is Judas. In Matthew 26:50, when Judas is headed Jesus' way to betray him, Jesus greets him and calls him, "friend." That is breathtaking.
Here this guy was...about to become the son of perdition, and pave his way to hell by betraying the greatest and eternal example of love in all of world history, and Jesus calls him "friend."
There's no vitriol.
There's no hatred.
There's no rebuke, reproof, or correction.
There's no condemnation.
There's no rejection.
There's no villanizing.
There's not even any demonizing...even though Satan himself entered Judas.
There's just gentleness. Just like we'd always expect from Jesus.
In Luke 7:34 the worst thing people could say about Jesus is that He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners.
In Luke 23:34 the greatest gift He gave to the very people who were murdering Him was forgiveness. He prayed, "Father, forgive them, because they have no idea what they're doing."
So the gospel seems pretty simple. Christians should be friends to everyone, since everybody's a sinner. Christians should be gentle to everyone, including those who might even betray their lives to a horrific death. And Christians should forgive anyone and everyone who hurts them, no matter how terrifying that hurt may be.
No exceptions. Ever.
Thank God that while YOU and I were villains, enemies of God, helpless, ungodly that Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5:6, 8, 10). And thank God that the Father is eternally unchanging in His gentleness and kindness to us no matter what kind of sin we commit against Him.
Also see: "Judas, Jesus' Friend" by John Schmidt