"Turn or Burn!"

One of the things I'm most ashamed of in life is that the title of this post was also the title of my first sermon. I was 16 and thought I knew everything. These days I've learned that wisdom is knowing what you DON'T know. Big difference.

Anyway, I was mad about a lot of things in those days, especially sin. Of course, "sin" was what other people did, and it helped me forget (or ignore) my own. That's one of the reasons we so enjoy judgement. Let's face it, it's easier to be harsh, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. It pumps up our self-righteousness. It makes us believe that we'll somehow get an "attaboy" from God because "we tell it like it is."

Do you have trouble saying "I love you," without adding a verbal addendum? Example: "I love you, BUT..." Here's what I've discovered. The best way to eliminate judgmental attitudes toward people who are different than to simply develop friendships with them. That's right...a real friendship! Get to know them! What a novel thought. You DO love them, right? Then be a friend.

Do you have any gay friends? Have you ever tried to get to know a real trans person? What about a real Democrat...or Republican? When's the last time you had lunch with someone who looks, acts, or thinks differently than you? By the way, Jesus did it all the time (see Matthew 9:11). I suppose there's safety in living in a bubble, but ahh, there's no growth either, and no real influence.

It takes hard work to love someone who thinks differently, but it takes virtually no effort at all to extend judgment (especially if we think we're doing it for God). Somehow we believe He winks at us when we "set people straight." Friends, maybe we're mistaking His wink...for a tear.

Over the years I've been around a lot of legalists with a good verse or two. They claim to speak for God and defend Jesus. But I've noticed in scripture that Jesus never got mad at sinners; instead, He sacrificed his very life for us (notice, I said, "us" not "them"). In fact, the only people who routinely ticked Him off...were religious people. Read Matthew 23 and take a look.

Can't we be secure enough in our relationship with the Father, to extend His lavish love and grace without feeling the need to add an addendum? Try it this week. I guarantee it's okay.

"Turn or burn?" Nope, I'll never say it again. But I WILL say, "I love you," no "ifs", "ands", or "buts" included.

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