One of the most astonishing texts that I have ever read in Scripture was something that completely shattered the tradition in which I grew up. My family and relatives were of the Pentecostal Arminian type that fully embraced the views of the Holiness Movement. It was this a movement that had people believe that perfection was something which could be earned through dedication. I was always believed this to be true and thought that if someone sinned then they were lazy.
Before examining the Scripture about this radical expectancy of perfection from others, the view lacks any foundation in logic. Why is it that when others sin they are lazy, but when I sin it doesn’t count? Christian holiness is taught by many who claim to be true followers of Jesus. While they may preach that they want to glorify God and live holy lives through their legalistic agendas, I see that their actions have no correlation to what they preach, and quite frankly their views don’t match Scripture.
A significantly large number of Christians believe that someone can be “too sinful” or “not worth their time”. They believe that true Christians shouldn’t associate with people that are sinners of sinners. Interestingly, they don’t see the law as something that points to man’s need of God, but rather as a means to further their pride. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time made that very same mistake, and strangely enough even believed our Lord to be a sinner.
Now returning to the astonishing text, I believe this is a text that definitely needs to be considered by the people who practice legalism, judgement against others, and teaching the false views of the Holiness Movement. I believe that if more people knew about this text, they would realize just how serious the law of God really is, and what our place is when it comes to how we perceive people around us.
Romans 7:14-15 (ESV) starts off with Paul saying the following: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Paul’s struggles sound awfully familiar to the struggles of those who are often times neglected, judged, bullied, and even rejected. I believe that Paul would be an outcast in today’s modern Evangelical churches, but this statement would cause people to believe Paul was the son of the devil himself. What does Paul mean when he says that he is of the flesh? Isn’t Paul a new creation?
He continues in Romans 7:16-17 (ESV) as he explains his statements: “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” So Paul is not saying that his fleshly desires are still a part of him, but merely that he still struggles. He is in agreement with the law of God, and believes that the words God has spoken are not only verifiable, but good. This faith can’t come from human intellect but only though the workings of the Holy Spirit. We can conclude that Paul is not only a person of religion, but also a true believer in Christ.
This is the question I now have for many Christians who judge the ones that struggle with sin: If Paul was alive today, would you judge him in the same manner you would other people you know? I confess that I have fallen into this kind of thinking countless times. I struggled with many of my friendships because of my selfishness. All I wanted to care about was my comfort and having an easy friendship. I didn’t want to surround myself with negative people and strange appearance because of pride, not because of righteous indignation. Any person who believes that it is necessary to sin to be holy has missed the point of the Bible’s message of redemption.
When people judge a believer or a non-believer for having the wrong kind of personality, a dark past, or a disturbing sin that plagues the individual’s life, they do two things that are dangerous:
1) They hinder themselves from fulfilling the command to love our neighbor, and to preach the gospel to them.
How does assuming someone’s worth affect the way we preach the gospel? Many times I have seen people pass by the homeless or hungry without even stopping to wish them an encouragement. Instead, they pass by out of selfish desire to keep their money that is in their wallets or purses.
The same method has been applied to the gospel. We see people who we think are too filthy, too disgusting, or too unappealing to deserve the message of Christ’s love. Perhaps Evangelism is not an issue of what is within the comfort zone, but rather (for many) the issue is about the ignorance of the heart which is that self-righteousness is a higher virtue than generosity of the gospel. If we didn’t judge by appearance, we would be exercising the same mercy our God had shown us.
2) They diminish the glory of God by indirectly stating that it is man’s power that causes change and not God.
When a person becomes so entangled with pointing fingers at others, he or she starts to forget the personal need for a Savior. How can we possibly come to the point that we forget how we came to Christ? I believe that if we were truly honest with ourselves, we would realize that it was not by our choice we even came to Christ. Every conversion story I heard had an overlapping theme of God influencing the person’s heart to believe they needed a Savior.
Was it I who died on the cross? Is it I who commands the Holy Spirit to work the will of my own accord? Shall I be the great executioner who determines the damnable and the saved? When we judge, we forget that we are like little children trying to put on their parents shoes. I honestly believe God looks at us and thinks that we are wasting our time when it comes to unrighteous judgement. We are not God! We can’t determine who is unredeemable, who is unworthy, and who is unelected. God alone knows those things, so who are we to assume we have the mind and power of God to change the hearts of men and sentence them?
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to examine yourself in regards to how we demand perfectionism from others. Test the the teachings of the Holiness Movement, and the over reliance of human free will, and you will see there is very little evidence to incline to those thoughts. We should never be quick to turn away someone in need, and we are to never be obsessed with false holiness through a legalistic mindset. I believe that we must battle with sin and conquer it, but only through Christ’s redeeming work, and not through ungodly judgement. I believe that we must exercise godly discernment, but only by knowing that we are only men who only can only see the partial things; God sees the whole.
Soli Deo Gloria.