They are all around us, those who give the impression that being a Christian is all about condemning and judging others. They come in the form of the traveling preachers who stand on our campuses and condemn all who pass by to hell. They come in the form of the ones who stand silently outside of clubs, holding signs that demand people repent. And sometimes they come in the form of our students – students who have spent most of their time isolated by our Christian institutions from those who don’t know Christ.
They may not preach or hold signs, but their attitudes and glances and deliberate segregation from those who don’t share their values can speak volumes. There is little wonder why those who are outside the Church often view those who are inside as judgmental. And there is little wonder why they often want little to do with the Christianity they see.
Too often we as Christians have taken a posture of condemnation and confrontation with those who are far from God. What a contrast this is to Jesus’ actual purpose.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:17 (NIV)
So how do we move from this posture of condemnation to a posture that is more like that of Jesus? I have recently been meditating on John 1:14 and I think it holds keys that will help us look more like Jesus in our relationship with the world.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NIV)
Enter The Fray
Several years ago, a friend of mine who served as a firefighter made headlines by rescuing a six-week old girl. Of course, in order to save the girl, Marty had to first enter the burning house. He couldn’t rescue from afar. In order to save her, he had to enter her burning world personally and carry her out.
Jesus’ purpose was to save the world and he chose to do that through incarnation – by putting the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9) and dwelling among us. It was the only way. You can do condemnation from a distance. You don’t have to be personally involved with someone to condemn them. But to save someone you have to be more personal. It takes getting involved in the lives of people and living among them.
Lead With Embrace
But it is also significant to note Jesus’ posture when He lived among us. It was a posture of grace and truth. As you read through the biographies of Jesus, you see that this was His typical response to those who were the least religious. He showed them grace and truth, and usually in that order. (The exceptions were those who were the most religious and hypocritical, who first had to realize they needed to be rescued!)
A couple of weeks ago I heard author Deb Hirsch say, “Lead with embrace, not theology.” I think that is what Jesus most often did and what we rarely do. We too often come out of our Christian sub-culture, leading with our theology and out truth, rather than with our hearts. And that often sends those who most need the truth that we have running away.
Why was it that Jesus was known as a friend of sinners? Why is it that those who were most attracted to Jesus in the first-century are the ones who are the most cynical about His followers today? I think the answer is that Jesus entered into their lives with His life, full of both grace and truth. And it was the grace and love that flowed out of His life that opened the ears and hearts of people to the truth He had to share. May we learn to do the same.
Mike Armstrong (@_mikearmstrong_) is in his 32nd year of ministry to college students at the University of Arkansas with Christ on Campus and is a past president of the Association of College Ministries. He has been married to Gina for 34 years and they have two grown and married daughters. He has also been a track and field official for over 20 years and is a fan of classic rock, jazz, and the blues. You can read his blog at michaelarmstrong.net or find him on Facebook at THEMikeArmstrong.