I am troubled. There's a message that desperately needs to be shared with the church that I fear many in church leadership do not share. It's the message of love, forgiveness and grace.
We, Christians and non-Christians alike, know that Christians frequently fall into sin. Christian leaders in the public eye experience falls. And, what does the church usually do? We watch them fall, then kick them on out the door. We fear their association with us. We don't want them to ruin our image. And, what happens in the process? Non-Christians see us beating up our own, and they want nothing to do with us.
See, we as Christians so often say of our own who have fallen: it's people like that who cause the lost to want nothing to do with Christianity. I've said it. But, is it true? I've been mulling over that statement for quite some time, and I'm not sure it's always true.
I remember when I'd just asked God for forgiveness, and was beginning the process of recovery. It wasn't one of my close church friends who came to me to offer me comfort. This person didn't go to church at all. But for over an hour, she poured out her heart, her experiences, and gave me hope that God could redeem what I'd done. (Allow me to insert here that she had no idea what I'd done, but just recognized the fact that I was hurting and needed comfort.) How is that? Why wasn't it one of my church friends? I don't have an answer for that, but I have an idea.
Before I chose the path of deep sin, I used to joke about the fact that I didn't have the gift of mercy. It makes me cringe now to think I laughed about that. I had no mercy for one who'd been caught in sin. I'd drawn an invisible line, and if you fell on the wrong side of that line, my association with you was limited, if not cut off. That was also the predominant attitude of my then-church.
Then I became the person on the wrong side of the line. And I felt the pain of being pushed away.
I think the church is great at going on mission, reaching the lost who are hurting. But we are also great at kicking our own when they're down. It's contradictory. We are to extend love even to those who hurt us the most. When we are truly loving our own, we'll want to extend mercy, grace and forgiveness to them when they choose the path of sin. We'll want to cover their sin with grace so that the outside world can see God's redeeming work. Love doesn't allow us to kick one of our own to the curb.
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8