I have been pondering what seems to be the tension between loving the sinner and following the law. Often times we call people Pharisees if they believe the law should be followed. But there is a distinction between people who have love in their hearts and follow the law, and those who only follow the law but have no love. I decided to look at what Jesus himself said about the law;
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19
I have thought much about this because lately, I have had multiple conversations with fellow Christians. The conversations have all started to sound the same and they go something like this;
Me: we have to stand up against immorality.
Them: well, Jesus loves everyone, not being a sinner is not a pre-requisite of his love. Live and let live.
Me: Jesus didn’t leave people in their sin. He transformed them. Of course, he loves everyone, but the question becomes do you love Him back? Because Jesus Himself tells us, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
It is in these moments that I see what Saint John Paul the Great talked about as the gradualness of the law. The essence of what the Great Saint was saying is that people tend to see the rules in the church as hard so they tell people that’s okay, Jesus loves you, and they lower the bar for that person, thereby keeping that person from moral truth.
Saint John Paul the Great said this is an affront to the dignity of the human person. Lowering the bar essentially says, you’re not capable of being a great Saint. But God begs to differ and calls all of us to Sainthood. Despite our failures, God always continues to love us. But when we give up and do not even try God’s grace is blocked from transforming us.
Jesus ABSOLUTELY DOES LOVE THE SINNER, but you know what He doesn’t do, leave the sinner who personally encounters Him in a wallowing of sin. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well says;
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world. John 4: 39-42
He told the adulterous woman to;
“… Go, [and] from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:11.
When Simon Peter personally encountered him;
“…he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 5:8.
The recognition of who you are when you have a personal encounter with Christ changes you and makes you want to be better. Jesus doesn’t want the sinner to stay stuck in his or her sin. He wants radical conversion and transformation. It is the most radical love in the world. Is it hard? Yes. But he tells us to look to Him for that radical love. How did he show that love? On the cross.
When we lower the bar and tell people that sin is not actually sinning, we are not showing them the God of miracles. The God who can transform the porn addict or drug addict, rescue the prostitute, free the materially enslaved.
Lowering the bar indicates apathy and lack of passion for Christ. This apathy leads to moral relativism where there is different truth for different people. Doing this contradicts Christ Himself who said;
I am the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:16
Apathy is the antithesis of what Christ wanted. Christ was passionate. Apathy doesn’t care about the sin of yourself or your neighbor. Apathy leaves you stuck, at best, in a life of mediocrity. At its worst, apathy can lead to the gas chamber. Because if you’re not passionate about truth, and you don’t care what happens to your neighbor in an effort to live and let live, then you shouldn’t be shocked when you or your neighbor gets carted away when you didn’t stand up and fight for what’s true.
We are called to speak of Jesus and evangelize His truth with love. Jesus loves the sinner. Respond to that love, and let the King of Kings transform your life into a rich, passion-filled life of joy.