Yah, you heard me right. Sin should be treated like cancer. You know, destructive, murdering, disgusting cancer.
And we should treat people who sin like they have cancer.
We should cry with them when they are hurting.
We should hold them when they are sad.
We should be quick to offer help when they ask for it. But don't force them to take our help, because having cancer is exhausting and painful and sometimes they need some space.
We should pray for them every day.
Our hearts should break for the pain they are going through.
We should weep with them when the medicine sometimes feels worse then the disease.
And we should also remember that cancer isn't contagious. You can't get it by spending time with them and holding their hand, or, hugging them.
There are two distinctly diametrically opposed ways of loving people. We can love them in the law. Or, we can love them in Grace.
Loving people in the law looks like this:
1) High expectations of what WE think they should be doing FOR us
2) Consequences(withholding our love, anger, punishment, bitterness) when they fail to meet our expectations.
3) Always on the look out for "mistakes"
4) Treating them differently depending on the day and/or our mood
5) What have you done for me lately attitude
Loving people in Grace looks like this:
1) High belief in who they are regardless of what they do for us
2) Actions of love(service, sacrifice, patience, caring) even when they aren't at their "best"
3) Always on the look out for reasons to encourage and praise
4) Consistent treatment and attitude towards them that has nothing to do with our mood or the day
5) What have I done for YOU lately attitude
People are treated like objects all the time. Even when we are generally "nice" enough people, we have a tendency to often look through a lens that defines that persons value by the value we perceive they are giving us. When that value diminishes(in our eyes) we replace them with something "better".
We have created a list of "do's and dont's" in our interpersonal relationships by which we base our love actions towards that person. When they hurt us, make us angry, act incorrectly...we justify our poor treatment of them because they are getting what they deserve. They didn't live up to the "law", and now its time to pay the piper.
What is even more terrible about this approach to love, is that we rarely ever have enough personal introspection to fairly evaluate how little we live up to the standards we apply to other people. And, we become self-righteous because of it. We say, "look at all that I have done to deserve you acting in a way that I want, and you aren't doing it, you are a bad person!!" And this self-righteous attitude becomes the basis for us playing the martyr. "Oh, look at poor little me, I am such a good son/friend/employee/spouse, and they aren't treating me like it, I deserve better!!"
How do you approach people in your life who aren't living up to expectations? Who are in sin? Sin in general, sin against others, sin against YOU? Is it time to make them pay for their bad behavior?
The Pharisees were great at the law. And they were great at viewing everyone through that lens. They were the first to judge other people, to call for punishment, to ostracize people for not being the "right kind" of person.
So Jesus calls them out...a lot... And He shows us a much different approach to loving others. Grace. Given not because of the goodness of the person receiving, but because of HIS goodness.
Don't get me wrong. He didn't pretend that sin didn't exist. But he didn't treat people like they were sinners. He treated them like someone who was hurting and needed to be loved. Even when they weren't acting very loveable. Why did the sick, the sinners, the hurting, come in droves to be near Jesus? Because He was going to treat them as if they were His very own precious children. They had lived their whole lives in the performance based approach to loving in the law. Being told you aren't good enough over and over and over again was probably pretty exhausting.
So what does this mean for us?
We have to be brutally honest with ourselves. How are we loving the people in your life? In the law? Or, in Grace?
A simple approach to being aware of this, and to begin to shape our hearts and actions to reflect this:
Write down the ways in which you show love towards people through words and actions. For instance; When I love someone, I smile at them. When I love someone, I offer to help them. When I love someone, I am really interested in what they have to say. When I love someone, I put their wants/needs ahead of mine.
Perhaps you can write it all out on a notecard you keep on you at all times. Especially if you are suspicious that you have been a tad bit too legalistic. And as you interact with this person, review your words and responses about what you recognize as being true signs of love. Then, do those things instead of what you might actually feel like doing. No matter what that person has or hasn't done that day/week/month/year.
Where this gets hard is when that person hasn't acted the best. When they have sinned and hurt you. But that is what Christ centered Grace is all about. While we were still SINNERS He laid His life down for us. So, die to self and love without condition!
Sin is like cancer. And we need to treat sinners like cancer patients. We don't sit around criticizing them all day long for having cancer. We love them right where they are at. One of the interesting things about cancer treatment and recovery is that a patients "support" network(friends and family) is so essential to success rate. You can give all the best treatment in the world, but if that person feels alone and abandoned their chances at healing are greatly diminished.
And when you love someone who has cancer, you don't do it ONLY if they will just get well. You love them because YOU LOVE THEM. Its a great benefit and blessing that your love can help.
When someone in your life is sinning, not living up to expectations, hurting you, you need to stop loving them ONLY if they will get "better". Love them because YOU LOVE THEM. They can be given all the "help" in the world to "get better" but if they feel alone and abandoned, their chances of healing are greatly diminished. It won't make them better, but you CAN make it worse.
Love because you have been loved. Die to self every day and love because God is good, not because they are.