by Amanda Grace Teo.
You’re sitting at the back row in service, and just as you were about to get into your ‘worship mode’ and raise your hands to worship, a man walks in. He’s new, you realise very quickly. He isn’t dressed well, he carries a subtle stench of wet grass mixed with nicotine, and he has bruises on his arms. What is your first reaction?
After the service, he decides that he should join a cell group for young adults just as the pastor recommended for every newcomer. How coincidentally, he appears in your cell group on the next Friday night. He begins to share, at a level of vulnerability that none of the other guys in cell group has ever shared. He shares about his past, the way he manipulated, abused and hurt people. He confesses his addiction to cigarettes, alcohol and pornography. He shares that he has lost everything in life – family, money, friends, job and a home.
The men in the group are shifting in their chairs, their glares shifting you’re your leader to each other. They’re uncomfortable because most of your sharing time only went as deep as, ‘I’m not doing well with my wife…she’s just too controlling.’ You begin to observe that some are looking at this man, up and down, repetitively as he speaks. Your peripheral vision reveals that your leader takes out the bible and starts finding a verse, with his lips pursed tight. And then there’s you.
After a month of going to church and cell group every week, the man leaves. No goodbyes, no last notes, nothing. What do you do then?
Are you thankful that such a man has left your group? Are you silently glad that you wouldn’t have to put up with his stench and his incessant talk about his sins, because honestly, you’re afraid that you’ve to reveal yours soon too? Are you curious to find out where he would be? Are you breaking on the inside because a child of God has left your church and your connect group, without finding true Godly love, because all that he received were words of advice of how to quit and how to overcome his overwhelming obstacles?
We are not called to judge. We often see the plank in our neighbours’ eyes so easily, and being good friends, we do our best to help them remove that plank. But we don’t take time to stare at ourselves in the eye, and ask God for His mercy and grace because the plank in our eyes are far greater.
Unbelievers cannot stop sinning, because they have not received the forgiveness and grace of God to turn away. Believers can, but choose to continuing sinning despite being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to turn away from it.
Don’t correct a sinner’s action but lead him to fix his eyes on Jesus.
Don’t try to change their hearts because that’s God’s job. Just love them.
Written: 4 April 2013