I recently had a conversation with one of my close friends who struggled to answer the question, “Is it really even my place to tell someone who they can and can’t love?” I replied by saying, “I mean, it kinda is,” and he asked, “How so?”
I then went on to state, “At the end of the day it’s a sin and it’s more unloving to not tell someone it’s wrong than it is to tell them it’s wrong, but of course you don’t just go up to people and say, ‘you’re sinning you need to stop right now,’ because that’s not how it works. But as Christians we can’t be tolerant of sin. Do we hate sin? Yes, but more importantly do we hate the sinner? Absolutely not.”
This caused my friend to realize that although we are called to love the sinner, confrontation can stem from a place of love as well. It is similar to a parent raising their kid, in the sense that a parent disciplining their child is not the parent being hateful towards him or her, rather it is the parents loving them and not wanting them to get hurt.
The same is true of God. He disciplines us and tells us what to do, not because he hates us but because he loves us and desires us to live a life that reflects him.
Though a stranger’s sin may or may not directly affect our lives, we cannot simply tolerate it. We are not being hateful towards them, instead we are doing the exact opposite. Since we love them, we do not want them to undergo the detrimental consequences of their sins.
In John 15:18-19, Jesus states, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (ESV). Jesus recognized that as Christians the world will hate us because we teach truth, and most of the time, the truth hurts. Our world hates the fact that Christians will call people out on the sinful things they do. However, what they fail to realize is that our motivation to speak the truth is our concern about our society and the individuals that make it up.
Jesus did not call us to tolerate peoples’ sin and just let them go to hell because we felt it was not our place to say something, when in fact it is exactly our place to be saying something. We must care enough for the souls of our societies to say something about their sin. Does that mean that we go out yelling and condemning them? Of course not, because in Christ, there is no condemnation. Nevertheless, we cannot tolerate others’ sin simply because we are afraid of what will happen if we confront them.
However, one final thing to keep in mind is that there must be a balance between truth and love. As an Arabic proverb illustrates, “When you shoot an arrow of truth, dip its point in honey.”
Additionally, it is important to remember that at times Christians wrongfully judge others for their sin while doing the same thing or something similar. We have to recognize Matthew 7:1-5 before we judge someone. It states, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (NIV). Self-examination is key before casting any judgements upon others.
With all this in mind, sure, we will stand out among the crowd, we will at times be persecuted for our beliefs, and we will be black sheep in a white sheep culture. However, as Paul said, all this pain and suffering cannot compare to the joy that is coming.