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“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin?” Theme: Half-Truths
Scripture: Matthew 7:1-5 Things I’d like to remember from today’s sermon:
Meditation Moments for Monday, February 8 – Read Matthew 9:9-13 - Tax collectors like Matthew collaborated with the Roman occupiers, collecting taxes (usually excessive) from their fellow Israelites. Jesus clearly, even shockingly welcomed and loved people like that, whom the “righteous” people of his day called “sinners.” (For another example of his behavior, cf. Luke 7:36-50.) There’s really no doubt that if we follow Jesus, he calls us to love sinners. Matthew was an outcast from respectable society. So imagine the type of friends who came to his house to eat with Jesus! (The Message paraphrased “tax collectors and sinners” with colorful precision as “crooks and riffraff.”) Who might be seen as “tax collectors and sinners” in 2016? How do you believe Jesus would treat (and have us treat) such people? When Jesus said, “I didn’t come to call righteous people,” who was he talking about? Was he saying that he actually considered them “righteous,” or was he saying ironically that THEY thought they were “righteous”? Is anyone, including you, so righteous that we do not need Jesus’ loving, merciful acceptance? Prayer: Loving Lord, help me to see others through your eyes, eyes that lit with love and compassion at the sight of a “sinner.” Help me to love and serve anyone I can in your name. Amen. Tuesday, February 9 – Read 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 & Romans 14:4-13 – One problem with believing that I should “hate” someone else’s sin is that it requires me to believe I’m qualified to judge that what that person is doing IS a sin. But the apostle Paul said only God (not us) can accurately assess people’s motivations, and see what is in their hearts. He strongly admonished the Christians in Rome: “Stop judging each other.” • In verse 13, Paul said part of Christian community is to “never put a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of your brother or sister.” Scholar Leslie Allen summed up Paul’s point: “Christian fellowship does not imply a right to run other people’s lives for them: only Christ can—and will—discharge such a right.” What's the difference between healthy accountability, helping a fellow Christian avoid self-destructive behavior, and trying to run that person’s life for them? • Have you ever been upset, even angered, by another person’s “sin,” only to have things that are hidden in the dark brought to light, motivations revealed, in a way that totally changed your view of the situation? How can trusting God to judge far more accurately than we ever could change the way we relate to one another? Prayer: Compassionate God, help me to major in majors and minor in minors. Free me from the urge to judge your servants, and help me to live in an increasing measure of your peace and love. Amen. Wednesday, February 10 – Read Matthew 7:1-5 – Elton Trueblood’s book The Humor of Christ noted that Jesus, far from always being somber and serious, often used humorous images to make a point vivid. In today’s reading, Jesus painted the absurd picture of someone with a log in their eye criticizing and trying to remove a splinter in another person’s eye. The image was laughable, but Jesus’ point was serious. He knew it’s easier to rebuke even others’ small failures than to see and correct our own flaws. What kinds of psychological “payoffs” often make it feel better to criticize others than to admit and face up to our own challenges? In what ways can recognizing the payoffs from that tendency serve as the first step in changing our behavior? What spiritual practices have you found strengthen you to resist the inner urge to judge others? Have you ever had someone judgmentally attempt to remove a “speck” from your “eye?” Did that experience draw you closer either to the other person or to God? How did that experience differ from a time when someone graciously and compassionately offered insights you felt free to accept or reject? Prayer: Lord Jesus, set me free from the addictive feeling of superiority when I find a “sin” to hate in someone else. Give me a clearer vision of myself, and of the love and grace with which you flood my life. Amen.
Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
Thursday, February 11 – Read Acts 11:2-18 – Some of the early Christians in Jerusalem thought it was okay to “love” Roman “sinners,” as long as you made it clear that you hated their sins by refusing to socialize or eat with them. God acted forcefully to get Peter and Cornelius together. Cornelius saw an angel; Peter had a vivid vision three times; the Spirit spelled out, “Go with these men.” Peter summed it up eloquently: “Who am I? Could I stand in God’s way?” • Peter’s critics in Jerusalem could quote Bible texts that said Israelites should avoid contact with Gentiles (e.g. Deuteronomy 23:3, Nehemiah 13:1-3). So Peter was quite sure he knew what was clean and unclean, and a bit proud that he had strictly avoided the unclean (verse 8). Then he learned that God’s definitions were different from his. Has God ever led you to rethink any of your “clean-unclean” definitions? Are there any God is nudging you about right now? • Prejudice was not one-sided. Jews saw Romans as impure pagan occupiers; Romans saw Jews as ignorant, conquered people with odd practices. Why do you think God cared so much about guiding Peter and Cornelius beyond those negative views of each other? We all see the world somewhat as “us” and “them.” Are you okay with leaving “them” alone, or has God’s desire to reach beyond barriers begun to shape your feelings, too? Prayer: Lord Jesus, you said, “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.” Nurture your peace-making spirit in my heart—yes, even toward those I label as “them” in my life. Amen. Friday, February 12 – Read Luke 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus, another despised tax collector, climbed up in a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. When Jesus stopped under the tree and called his name, no doubt many thought, “Now Zacchaeus is going to catch it!” They were shocked and grumbled when Jesus invited himself to eat at Zacchaeus’ house, thinking he was approving Zacchaeus’ bad, sinful behavior (cf. v. 7). But Jesus’ love, rather than harsh condemnation, redirected Zacchaeus’ life. Zacchaeus, “a ruler among tax collectors, was rich.” That didn’t come from honest, hard work. Tax collectors paid Rome a secret, fixed amount—everything else they collected was theirs to keep. They got rich by cheating people. What does it tell you about Jesus that he would risk his reputation to reach out to an unlovely, unloved man like Zacchaeus? Somehow, in Zacchaeus, the self-serving tax collector, Jesus saw the promise of generous, God-centered living. To the townspeople’s amazement, he turned out to be right. Zacchaeus said, “I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.” Do you know anyone who radically reoriented their life after meeting Jesus? What good qualities has Jesus drawn out or magnified in you? Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for coming “to seek and save the lost,” including me. Help me to join you in doing that. Amen. Saturday, February 13 – Read 1 Peter 1:18 – 2:3 – In the book Un-Christian, researcher David Kinnaman reported that a stunning 87% of young non-religious people in America believe Christians are judgmental. Kinnaman quoted a 25-year-old named Jeff who said, “Christians talk about hating sin and loving sinners, but the way they go about things, they might as well call it what it is. They hate the sin AND the sinner.” Yet Peter wrote that accepting Jesus’ love moves us to get rid of qualities like ill will, envy and slander. Love and hate, he believed, do not coexist comfortably in a heart shaped by God’s goodness. • Peter referred in 1:23 to Christians having received new birth. Too often, as Kinnaman found, the phrase “born again” leads many to think of a person with a condescending, unloving or exclusive attitude. What qualities did Peter say characterized a person who had been born again by God’s power? How has God made your life better by replacing negative qualities like “ill will, deceit, pretense, envy, and slander” with the nourishing inner reality that “the Lord is good”? Prayer: Dear God, help me live authentically in your love and grace, letting go of my need to look superior to others. Teach me to own my struggles, claim your power to transform me and trust that power to transform others. Amen. Family Activity: Create a “Love one another” collage. Gather a piece of poster board, magazines, scissors, glue and markers. Invite one family member to write the title “Love One Another” on the poster board. Ask each person to cut out pictures of various people and fasten them to the poster. Some family members might even want to draw pictures of people. When your family has completed the poster, take a moment to wonder aloud what the lives of these different people are like. Say, “Often in everyday life we make assumptions or judgments about people we know and people we don’t know. God calls us to love all people. How can we each do a better job of loving others?” Pray and ask God to help you do this.
Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
Theme: Half-Truths “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” Sermon preached by Jeff Huber
February 6-7, 2016 at First United Methodist Church, Durango
Scripture: Matthew 7:1-5 1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. VIDEO
“Love the Sinner – Hate the Sin”
Today we conclude this series of sermons that we’ve been doing on what we might call Christian clichés. These are things that sound true to begin with and they often seem biblical, but when we take the time to look into them carefully we realize that there are parts of the saying which just are not true and are actually the opposite of what we find in the Scriptures. We’ve been thinking about these together so we can remove them from our vocabulary as things we say automatically and instead think more critically about them. I want to invite you to take out of your bulletin your Message Notes and your Meditation Moments. The Scripture text we are looking at today is listed at the top and then there are blank lines for you to write things down that you might want to remember from today’s message. You can download this resource right off of our website if you’re watching at home or online. You will then find below there and on the backside daily Scripture readings and suggestions for prayer. Each Scripture reading ties back into today’s message and are meant to help you go a bit deeper in your faith journey. I want to invite you to join me in saying all of the half-truths that we have done so far in this sermon series. This will be an exercise in getting them out of our system as we say them together out loud. GRAPHIC 1
Everything Happens for a Reason
Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
God helps those who help themselves
God won’t give you more than you can handle
God said it. I believe it. That settles it.
These are all things that we likely have heard and maybe even said before. If you haven’t been here for the other sermons then you might be wondering to yourself why these are such a problem because they sound true. There is some truth in each one of them but if you have missed the other sermons I would invite you to go online and take a listen because my hope is that by the time you get to the end of each message we will be thinking more deeply about these phrases. Today we turn our attention to one last phrase. We often say this phrase as well-meaning Christians as a way of trying to be gracious and show that we really do love everyone. This statement is so entrenched in many people’s thinking, not unlike the other ones we’ve done, that people have it tattooed on them. I’m sorry by the way if any of you have any of these phrases tattooed on you and now you want to try to get rid of them or change them. Let’s read this last phrase from this woman’s arm. GRAPHIC 5
Love the sinner. Hate the sin.
How many of you have heard this before? All of us have probably heard that phrase at some point or another in our lives. I want to begin by recognizing the false truth within the statement. If I’m busy looking at all of your sins and hating on them then it’s really hard for me to love you. It’s hard for you to feel loved when I’m pointing out your sin. The reality is that this kind of behavior just doesn’t work in real life. I have heard a lot of people banter about the phrase, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner,” as if it were some sort of scriptural command. Did Jesus ever command us to get all lathered up about sin? What is the scriptural warrant for such a proposition? I am not aware of any place in scripture where this is command to us as a general rule of life or a method of ministry. I have known a number of people who have invoked that principle, but none of them were able to maintain the fine distinction and not wind up hating the sinner. In fact, I have never met a person who sighed soulfully, “That minister hates my sin, but I know he really loves me.” I did once meet a man who spoke bitterly of a fire-breathing pastor to whom he had gone in search of forgiveness for his past and to mend his life. The pastor violated the confidence, decried the Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
man’s sins in public and said to the man’s family and congregation they should, “love the sinner and hate his sin.” The man was stripped of all honor and dignity, he was cast out of his church, he was estranged from his family, and separated from his friends. He was left alone and in tears and on the verge of suicide—all in an effort to, “love the sinner and hate the sin.” I’ve met with more people than I can count who have experienced people saying to them, “we are going to hate YOUR sin and love YOU as the sinner,” but it got it all mixed up, and pushed the person to the brink, not of salvation, but of a living hell. I’m going to tell you today that this phrase just doesn’t work and I hope you will think about removing it from your vocabulary. To be fair, we say this phrase because we want to be gracious and recognize that all of us sin and fall short. We all make mistakes and we all do things we wish we hadn’t done or say things we wish we hadn’t said. We often will add to this phrase that all sin is equal in the sight of God. Have you heard that phrase before? SLIDE
“All sin is equal in the sight of God.”
Let’s tackle this half-truth first. There are two main words in the Scriptures which are translated into the English word sin that we have looked at before. The primary word in the Old Testament in the Hebrew means, “To stray from the path or to miss the mark.” SLIDE
Chata = “to miss the mark,” “stray from the path”
The idea is that there is a mark or target that we are supposed to hit. There is a path that we are supposed to take, which is God’s will, and we have strayed from that path or missed the mark. In the New Testament the word is very similar and it is actually a Greek archery term. SLIDE
So in both the Old and the New Testament the word for sin has a similar meaning which is a straying from what God wants us to do. We do that in thought, word and deed. We do it by what we’ve done and what we’ve left undone. Sometimes we are actively engaged in hurting somebody and violating God’s will and sometimes by not doing something we are not doing God’s will. We see someone who is hurting or who is in need and we don’t do anything to help then we have also sinned and missed the mark. The things that we do are sins of commission and the things that we failed to do our sins of omission. Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
The reality is that all of us are sinners because we all fall short. The apostle Paul states this clearly in the book of Romans 3:23. SLIDE
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
We all need forgiveness. Whether we are religious or nonreligious, we recognize that nobody perfectly lives up to their values and ideals. We all stray from them, on one side or the other. The challenge then is to ask if every moment of straying from the path and missing the mark is the same. Are all sins equal? The fact of the matter is that the statement is not true and it is not in the Bible. People take that from the Bible from certain places like this phrase from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. SLIDE
27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
This sounds like what Jesus is saying is that whether you commit adultery physically or just in your heart, then it’s the same. That’s not exactly what Jesus is saying because Jesus is using a common speaking tactic call prophetic hyperbole. Prophetic means that he’s really shaking you up and trying to get your attention and hyperbole means he’s exaggerating to make a point. You have to understand this when Jesus speaks and if you read the rest of this passage you can see it clearly. Here’s what he says next. SLIDE
29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Jesus doesn’t want us all going around blind and without any arms. Jesus is telling us that sin is serious business. In this section of his preaching he also is reminding us that just because we don’t act on our thoughts and cheat on our spouse doesn’t mean that we are innocent. If we are unfaithful in our hearts then we are violating God’s will for our lives already, so don’t think you are better than those who have acted on their thoughts and feelings. For those of you who think you don’t have those kind of thoughts, I present to you that same chapter in verse Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
21 where Jesus says these words which really probably catches all of us and is meant to help us all look at our behavior and recognize that none of us are perfect. SLIDE
21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
Is Jesus saying that all of us Bronco fans who watch the Super Bowl and curse at the television or scream that the referee is being an idiot are really going to hell? Is he really saying that when you do those things it is the same as murder? No, but he is trying to get us to understand that we should be careful with our words because we hurt people with them. Jesus is NOT teaching in this text that all sin is equal in the eyes of God. So if we go to Durango Doughworks just after they have pulled their doughnuts out of the ovens and you order 12 of your favorites and you sit down and eat them all in one sitting there is a word for that. It’s called gluttony and if we do that on a daily basis we will cut short our lives and it’s not healthy. It is a sin to over consume and we can feel it because our belly starts to hurt and our brains don’t work as well and we are not as effective for God as we could be. Now is that sin equal to the person who drinks too much alcohol and then gets in their car and drives? These are radically different kinds of sins because in one case you really are only harming yourself or maybe your family or the people who love you who will miss you, while in the other case you could kill somebody. There is a greater level of responsibility and a greater level of sin when you can harm people beyond yourself. Is cheating on your taxes by claiming a few too many charitable deductions the same as cheating on your spouse? In one case you can correct the mistake by paying the correct amount or even going back and paying a penalty. In the other instance you have actually brought great pain to one or more people depending on the size of your family that may or may not be able to be rectified. If you tell a white lie to a friend is that the same as lying in a court of law where you testify that you saw someone do something that they didn’t really do? I grew up with a father and a stepfather who were Catholic and they talked Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
about two categories of sins. The first category is venial sins which are easily forgiven and are not as dangerous in terms of destroying our relationship with God or with others. They can cause pain and problems but they don’t necessarily cause harm to someone else in a way that is permanent. The second category is mortal sins which can jeopardize our soul and our spiritual health. These sins can bring pain to others that is very real and it is very hard to fix that pain. Both categories of sin separate us from God and others, but they are seen as very distinct and different in terms of the level of that separation. This idea was not simply made up by the church but actually comes from 1 John 5:16-17. SLIDE
16 If you see a Christian brother or sister sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. 17 All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.
John is making an interesting argument that there are various categories of sins and some are more serious than others. You might remember that we did a sermon series on the seven deadly sins which are seen as the root sins because all other sins arise from these. They also are deadly because they all start out as something good but can become something deadly if we let them get the best of us. One of you actually got me a “Seven Deadly Sins Gumball Collection” after that sermon series I should probably display on my desk in my office with, “two gumballs and a redeeming Bible verse in every box!” GRAPHIC 6 SLIDE
7 Deadly sins Gumball Collection Lust (Have these fly in one at a time.) Gluttony Greed Sloth Wrath Envy Pride
Do you remember which one of these the church has said was the most deadly to our souls? It’s that last one of pride. The most serious of these sins is Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
pride because all of the others rise up from that one and if we have that one we often can’t even see the fact that we have sin and brokenness in our lives. This brings us back to the idea of our half-truth for today, “Love the sinner. Hate the sin.” We are going to break this into two parts and let’s talk about the first one together which is, “Love the sinner.” GRAPHIC 7
Love the sinner
This phrase sounds so true. How can there be anything wrong with it? This is how Jesus lives and how he ministers to others. Jesus was the only perfect human being and he is loving sinners all the time. He spends his time with sinners and he cares for them. He shows the mercy. Jesus was called, “a friend to sinners.” You might remember that Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 these words. SLIDE
15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
Jesus was all about being with sinners so what could be wrong with this phrase, “Love the sinner”? Wouldn’t Jesus have said that? Jesus actually never did say this. He did say these words. GRAPHIC 8
Love your neighbor
Your neighbor is anyone who needs you, even people you can’t see. You give food or clothing in our clothing and food collection area out by the Fellowship Hall and you have no idea who you are helping but you are loving your neighbor. The word “love” that Jesus uses is actually an action word that has to do with choosing to love in a way that is dogged and determined. When we are seeking the best for the other person we are loving our neighbor the way Jesus commanded us. It doesn’t mean that we have warm and fuzzy feelings but it means we will seek the best for that person. While Jesus doesn’t say to, “Love the sinner,” he does say these words in Matthew 5:44. GRAPHIC 9
Love your enemies.
So there are commandments to love our neighbor and to love our enemies. Our enemy is a neighbor who has done something to inflict pain upon us or hurt Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
us in some way. We are even supposed to love them. We are not called to have warm and fuzzy feelings for them but we are determined to seek the best for that person. Jesus teaches us that when we do that the world changes. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior preached on this when he said… GRAPHIC 10
“Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend.”
When we return blessings for evil the world has the possibility of transformation into the kingdom of God and enemies become friends. So Jesus calls us to love our neighbor and he calls us to love our enemies. Why doesn’t Jesus tell us to love the sinner? I think there are two reasons. SLIDE
It’s redundant to say that we should, “love the sinner,” because all of our neighbors and all of our enemies and all of us including ourselves are sinners. Neighbor covers the word sinner because it refers to everybody and we are all broken and we all fall short. But I think there’s a more important reason why he never says this phrase, “Love the sinner.” Jesus knows that when we start looking at each other as sinners instead of our neighbors, we start looking at the things that are wrong with other people. It puts us in a position of judge and jury when we say we are going to, “Love the sinner.” If we are honest, when we use this phrase we are basically saying this. SLIDE
“I am going to love you EVEN THOUGH you are a sinner.”
When we begin to do that, something begins to go wrong in our hearts. I think Jesus knew that we have a natural tendency to become judgmental of others when we look at their sins. We start to see the sins of others but we don’t see the sin within ourselves. This is part of our human condition and I think Jesus was concerned about this for our spiritual well-being, which is why he tells us to love all of our neighbors and all of our enemies and not worry about who is sinning and who is not. We actually find Jesus teaching us the opposite of this in several places, one of those being in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke’s gospel. The word “Pharisee” means, “Separated one.” These were religious leaders who were set apart and believed they needed to separate themselves from sinners. They didn’t eat with sinners, they didn’t fellowship with sinners, they avoid trying to be around sinners and they certainly wouldn’t befriend them because they were trying to be pure and holy before God. Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
The tax collectors were Jews who were working for the Roman government who was the occupying force in first century Palestine. Their military force was there against the will of the Jewish people and the Roman soldiers, acting on the orders of the tax collectors, extracted taxes from the people to prop up the Roman government. These Jewish tax collectors would assess payment from their neighbors in order to pay for the soldiers and the occupying government in a cruel twist of fate, because none of the Jewish people wanted the Romans around. The only people who would take this job were those who were already on the outs of society or they believed that money was the most important thing in the world because after they collected the taxes that were needed for the government, they got to keep whatever was left over, which meant they would collect as much tax as they could. They were considered the worst kind of sinners of all because they were traitors to their own people. Let’s take a look at this parable as it’s captured in the miniseries that came out a few years ago, “The Bible.” VIDEO GRAPHIC 11
The Bible – Pharisee and Tax Collector The Pharisee and Tax Collector
I love how Jesus shows us who God is through these stories. We see God’s character and God’s heart towards those who are labeled as sinful. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount we find Jesus capturing this idea in Matthew’s gospel. The disciples of Jesus are one of the main audiences in this sermon and he knows that they will have the temptation after he leaves to point the finger at each other and at others in judgment. He knows they will try to point out each other’s sins and play the blame game in his absence. This is what often happens to us after we become followers of Jesus Christ which is why this sermon in Matthew’s gospel and this text are so important. We begin looking at things that people are doing that we used to do and we start pointing fingers. Jesus doesn’t want this to happen and so he uses hyperbole once more in this metaphor from Matthew 7. This is actually the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount which tells us something very important. Every good preacher will tell you that the conclusion is what most people will take with them and so it should be strong. With that in mind, listen to these words. SLIDE
1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 “And why worry
Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. This is a great image because it’s so absurd, yet this is how we often live our lives as Christians. We want to point out splinters for other people when we can’t see the logs in our own eyes. Jesus tells us that this is not what it looks like to be one of his disciples. I think if Jesus were going to take this phrase and rework it might look like this. SLIDE
“Love my neighbor despite the fact that I am a sinner.”
So we’ve talked about the first half of this phrase, “Love the sinner.” Now let’s look at the second half of the phrase. SLIDE
Hate the sin.
What makes me a little uncomfortable about this is that Jesus only once tells us to hate anything. It’s actually a strange statement that you have to unpack in the light of his use of prophetic hyperbole. We find this in Luke 14. SLIDE
25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
We have to remember that elsewhere Jesus tells us to honor our parents and we are to love everybody, certainly our parents and our family who are often our neighbors. Jesus is asking that we serve the kingdom of God first and that everything else comes after that, which is why he uses this radical language. I like how this version talks about hating everyone by comparison, even your own life, in order to be his disciple and follow him. Even when Jesus uses this strong word “hate” he doesn’t mean hate in the sense that we think of it. In any rate, Jesus never tells us to hate the sinner. Jesus actually spent a lot of time with those who are labeled as sinners—prostitutes, alcoholics, thieves, the occasional adulterer, traitors to their own people and those who committed a Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
variety of crimes. Yet he never speaks about hating the sins of these people. He never says, “I will love you, but I hate your sin.” The only time where Jesus actually comes out and denounces somebody’s sin and pointed it out to them has always been with religious leaders, people like me as your pastor. One of these stories is in John 8 which is a story that floated separately as an independent story or text about Jesus outside the gospel until it was added in the second century. In this story, we find a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. There is this picture in the story of religious leaders who have found her in the bedroom with some man and they drag her out into the street with her bed sheets around her. They throw her before Jesus who is standing in a courtyard. She is sobbing and humiliated and afraid because they have rocks in their hands on the penalty for this sin is death by stoning. While the woman is standing before Jesus, no doubt with her head down and sobbing, the Pharisees question Jesus because this is a trap. They know he is a friend of sinners but the law says that she has to be stoned to death. “What you gonna do Jesus? She was caught in this very act of blatant sin.” Maybe you remember in the story how Jesus gets down on his knees and he begins to draw on the sand. Don’t you wish you knew what he was writing in the sand? I don’t think they were happy thoughts. He then looks up at the crowd of religious leaders which is gathered and he rebukes them with his famous text that even many non-Christians know. GRAPHIC 11 Let-the-one-among-you-who-is-without-sin-be-the-first-to-cast-a-stone One by one we hear the stones fall to the ground with a thud as they all walk away. Jesus turns to the woman and he lifts her up and he says to her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Jesus doesn’t say that adultery is a great idea. But instead of calling her out anymore, as if she needed it, he offered her mercy and grace. This is how Jesus responds to sin. The only other time I can find Jesus denouncing sin in the Gospels is in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 23. It is just before he is crucified and he is in the Temple courts calling out the sins of the religious leaders. SLIDE
25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of
Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. 27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Jesus announces their religious hypocrisy which pushes people away from the Kingdom of God rather than drawing them in. You never will hear Jesus preaching a sermon about the sins of ordinary people listening to him. He would call them to mercy and invite them into a different path, but with religious people Jesus had problems because we are supposed to know better. This cartoon sums it up well that somebody gave me a number of years ago. GRAPHIC 13
Cartoon - You were a believer
St. Peter is standing before the pearly gates with the book of life open in front of them. A person who is just died is standing in front of the gates before St. Peter and St. Peter says, “You were a believer, yes. But you skipped the not-being- a-jerk-about-it part.” Sometimes, if we are not careful, we Christians can skip the “not being a jerk about it” part by thinking that our business is to point out other people’s sins. I know that I have enough sin in my own life that I hate, I don’t have time and energy to point out yours and tell you how much I hate it. I have to focus on me and my struggles but one of the best ways to avoid that is for me to focus on yours. I do think there are times when we should denounce sin publicly, especially when it is corrupt. Sins that harm or oppress other people or do evil to others—like child-abuse, spousal abuse, racism and injustice are things we should be vocal about. When children die at night because they didn’t get enough to eat the week before is something we should denounce. We should have righteous indignation about places where people are oppressed or killed because of the color of their skin or their religious belief. As Christians, we are called to stand between the one who is the oppressor and the ones who are oppressed and say, “Not on my watch.” That’s when we should have the courage to hate sin, but Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
that’s not what we’re usually talking about when we typically say, “Love the sinner. Hate the sin.” Some people find support for this phrase, “Love the sinner. Hate the sin,” in Romans 12:9 we read these words. SLIDE
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
I would argue that Paul is simply reminding us Christians that love is not about pretending and it’s about hating what goes on inside of ourselves so we can hold on to what’s good in our lives. When we read the next verse it becomes clear that this passage is really about us dealing with our own lives and not pointing out other people’s sins. SLIDE
10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
Gigi Graham is Billy Graham’s oldest daughter and she tells a story about her dad which captures I think the essence of what Jesus called us to be about as his followers. It was the 75th anniversary of Time magazine with a big banquet being held in Washington DC. Pres. Bill Clinton was asked to be one of the speakers along with Mikael Gorbachev and many other famous politicians and celebrities of the day. This was in 1998 and President Clinton had just been impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice. What was really making the news was a woman named Monica Lewinsky was relationship with President Clinton was at the center of those proceedings and the weeks leading up to the banquet. Billy Graham took his oldest daughter Gigi with him to this event. Billy Graham got up from his table and went over the table where the President and Mrs. Clinton were sitting. He embraced them and spoke kind words of encouragement quietly to each of them. He came and sat back down with his daughter and after the banquet they drove home together. Gigi asked her dad what she said to the President and his wife. She was struck by him wrapping his arms around them and giving them such a warm embrace and speaking to them so kindly in a very public place. She asked if he was worried about what others might think of his public display towards them. Billy Graham replied to his daughter, “Honey, there are far too many Christians right now gossiping and judging. I just felt like they needed to be loved. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. It’s God’s job to judge. It’s our job to love.” I Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
hope you might write that down and if you get nothing else out of today’s message at this quote might stick with you. GRAPHIC 14
It's the Holy Spirit's Job to convict
“It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. It’s God’s job to judge. It’s our job to love.” Let’s be honest and name the elephant in the room today. When we typically have heard this phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” it has been around the topic of homosexuality over the last 10 to 20 years. That’s the place where I often hear today in the Christian community. I want to share a few words with you as we close today about this. First, when it comes to the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage we are divided in the church and in the nation. Some deeply committed Christians look at the texts we find from Moses and Paul, of which there are five or six of them at the most, that speak negatively about some form of same-sex intimacy and say, “this is God’s timeless will forever. This is how God wants us to live and be today.” Some deeply committed Christians look at those same texts and ask, “Were they even talking about the same thing we are talking about today? Did they understand things like sexual orientation? Do those verses capture God’s timeless will or are they more like the verses we talked about last week in the sermon about slavery and the subordination of women and putting rebellious teenagers to death? Where do we say, that doesn’t capture God’s heart and will today?” Some Christians are on one side of this debate and other Christians are on another side and here in this church we have both groups represented. Regardless of which side of this debate you are on, I want to remind you how we are supposed to treat people who are our neighbors. How are we to respond to God’s gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender children? I would hope that all of us would find agreement in the reality that is not our job to judge even if we believe it’s not God’s will. It’s not my job or your job to be in the place of convicting on either side of this topic and I think the devil has a great time getting us to fight over these things and see each other as objects. I’ve told you this before, but when I was a youth pastor in Colorado Springs I was asked to spend time with a support group for gay lesbian teenagers that was sponsored by the El Paso County Department of Health and Human Services. Most of them were kids who had been kicked out of their conservative Christian Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016
homes. Most of them had also try to take their own life. One young woman spoke to me after her suicide attempt and when I asked her about where she saw God in the middle of her struggles she told me something I’ll never forget. She told me her parents had told her the Scriptures taught them to love the sinner and hate to sin. Then she said, “All I heard and all I could feel was hate—hatred of my parents towards me and hatred of me for who God created me to be.” I met her parents a few weeks later and she was able to share those feelings with them directly and both her father and mother burst into tears. They had no idea what they were communicating to their daughter by using that phrase. They made a commitment to never use that phrase again and I want to encourage you to think along those same lines today. We are not in the business of judging people but of loving people. When people think of First United Methodist Church I hope they don’t say, “Well, that’s that big church out on Florida Road.” My hope is that they will say, “That’s the church that is the real deal. They try to love the way Jesus loved and they put their faith in the practice, using their hands in service in the world. It’s safe to go to First United Methodist Church regardless of who you are or what your background because you will be welcome there.” When I was doing a Google search on this phrase I thought this was the best image that I found—a T-shirt which reminds us this phrase works best when we stop at the first word. GRAPHIC 15
Oh God, how grateful we are that you came, not to show judgment but to offer mercy and grace to us all. You came not to point out our sin but to point us to the way and the truth and the life. Thank you for saving us from our own broken places and for offering us forgiveness. You have called us who have received mercy to offer mercy in your name. Help us to be the kind of church that welcomes people in your name. Help us to live a life of love when we leave this place and take our faith to the streets. Thank you for loving us O Lord. Help us to love in your name. We pray that you would forgive us for the sins we have committed in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. Wash us clean and make us new. Help us to faithfully serve you, in your holy name. Amen Sermon preached by Jeff Huber – February 6-7, 2016