I suppress a big smile when I hear that being said.. “Oh no, that person isn’t a life style witness… We can’t take that person on – it will be like promoting such behaviour”. That’s a value statement of many Christian organisations… Often the lifestyle witness which they refer to, was of the past with a label that is carried onto the present, a label that was stuck by these very Christians too.
It makes me smile on many counts. First it is thus deduced that they are good lifestyle witnesses and thus why they are there in those institutions to begin with. Unless someone else has their standards of being righteous, they can’t join the elite group. It reminds me of a scripture passage that Jesus narrates!
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 18:10-14
Those who frown at other peoples’ pasts simply do not know the grace of God.. Some would justify their values by stating that they don’t have a problem with the person’s past but if those people are promoted then it would be perceived by others that they are promoting the problem, advocating such behaviour. This statement in essence actually shows that they do indeed have a problem with the person’s past as they are seeing the person through the label and encouraging others to do the same by their oppression of the person.
I am so grateful that God isn’t that way, that His love, grace and mercy sees beyond appearances and doesn’t judge like human beings do.
I think of Saul murdering all those who believed in Jesus. It was this very Saul that had an encounter with God…. and God chose this murderer to make a 180 degree turn in his life.. this Saul transformed to Paul… and boy what a missionary was he, chosen not only to expand the Kingdom of God but also to be a vessel for God to inspire His Word through! What a great privilege.
I think of Rahab who had been a prostitute at the time – she protected the spies. God elevated her to marry Salmon and placed her on the genealogy of Christ!
I think of the Samaritan woman at the well. She had had 5 husbands and she was living with a man. God knew her circumstances and her choices – obviously forced choices beyond her wish… She readily confessed to Jesus – who at that point was a complete stranger to her. Jesus didn’t tell her ‘go sin no more’ but instead called her WOMAN which at those times in that culture was a term of RESPECT. Jesus obviously knew His acceptance and love would touch this woman and there was no way she was going to keep quiet this beautiful experience she had. She RAN to those who had outcast her and told them, “He knew all that I had done”. The entire village was saved! Why did Jesus have to speak to the OUTCAST crossing all cultural boundaries, to the point of making the disciples wonder what was going on too! Why would He choose a divorcee and an adulterer in that case?
I think of David falling into one sin after the other – he was an anointed person by God at this stage mind you. His heart was hardened, and ultimately God sent Nathan the prophet to speak into his life. David was convicted and he repented with a broken and contrite heart. God called him a man after His own heart. God didn’t demote David at this stage. Couldn’t He have done so saying ‘he was a murderer, an adulterer, failed in his role as king’ etc?
Does God’s forgiveness mean He is promoting those sins (of all those above)? Obviously not! Any person with a deep intimacy with God would know God FORGIVES and cleans the slate of those who confess, repent and make a change in life! For those of us who choose to keep a black mark on those God has forgiven and thus view them consistently with the black mark and oppress them, then God will use the same standard for us too.
All of us have fallen short of His glory – me inclusively obviously! We fail at some point or the other.. Read the acts of the fleshly nature! How many of them do we exhibit daily?
Sins are not about good or bad but NOT DOING WHAT GOD IS ASKING US TO DO!
Not loving others as ourselves is a sin too. Not responding to God’s calling on our lives is a sin too. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (the religious leaders) calling them hypocrites because they had…
neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness – Matthew 23:23
Where do you stand today? Do you fall into the category of the self righteous Pharisee who find reasons to oppress or do you fall into the category of David, the Samaritan woman, Rahab, Paul etc etc who had their sins forgiven and became changed people whom God ELEVATED and promoted. No man can stop what God has planned.. no Pharisee can stop it either..
God doesn’t look at your past.. He looks at your present.
He doesn’t look at appearance… He looks into your heart..
You are special in HIM no matter what others say..
A broken and contrite heart He will never despise.. He will never oppress ..
He will release from captivity and PROMOTE PROMOTE PROMOTE
A lifestyle witness isn’t the behaviour – but rather it’s the JOY OF THE LORD and the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT is what reveals where your walk is.