The outcast, he watches, expecting
The horror of the others he’s met
Who turn in disgust, leaving him alone
He expects what he’s seen before:
His home is hell, not protecting
Him from the evil he’s met
In life, no; rather, by casting their stone
The people demonstrate even more:
We hide behind masks, pretending
We have never with sin met–
Our skin covers our blackened bones.
With reminders of our core:
This outcast has seen it all–
The hypocrites who watch him fall.
He expects it now from all who call–
But this new visitor shows only grace.
She smiles warmly now, approaching
And looking past the faults
All others do see; she laughs
And dispels the darkness with a gift:
He wonders who this girl, encroaching
His cold heart–his vault–
Could be; she laughs
And whispers, (his spirit to lift)
“I am Love.”
“What is love?” he asks, not knowing–
He only knows of faults
And sin. Love smiles and laughs,
Drawing him in, she says with a kiss,
“I am Love.”
And thus, a heaven is made of hell
By love, a remedy that makes all things well.
No longer reminded of how he fell,
He is accepted by the arms of Love.
I found this poem recently in the very back of my file cabinet at school, the beautiful words penned by my son, Josiah. God had me pull it out and reread it at just the right time–when the Lord is teaching me slowly, day by day, what it really means to love. How appropriate that the reminder to love should come to me through the words of my own–flesh of my flesh, student becoming the teacher. As it should be.
I read the poem and grew silent as I pondered what God wanted me to learn from these words.
As I have been meditating on this theme since January first, I have looked up many Scriptures on love and studied the Hebrew and Greek meanings. In the weeks to come, I plan to share many posts on love and all its various elements. But today I want to embrace the idea that God IS love. If we want to understand love, we have only to look to the Master of love.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11, NIV84).
The greatest example of love is that of a Father giving His Son and that of a Man who would willingly lay down His life, not for those whom He deemed worthy, but for those He deemed worth it. He didn’t wait for us it get it all together, to walk away from our sin, to get our junk all straightened out first. No, He came for us when we were at our worst.
“But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Did you get that? He died for us knowing the depths of sin we would plunge. He left the splendor and majesty of the throne for the loneliness and death of the grave. He knew the very worst thing you or I would ever do. And still He came.
Why can’t we do that for others? Why do we feel as if we have to point out others’ faults and remind them of their failures? Why are we so quick to point out the sins of others, but slow to see our own? Are we truly afraid that if we love someone in sin, we are approving of it?
Jesus wasn’t afraid that by loving us He would condone our sin. He was honest with people: woman at the well (Go, call your husband and come back.); woman caught in adultery (Go now and leave your life of sin.); rich young ruler (Come, follow me.) So why are we so afraid that if we love people who are living a sinful lifestyle, they will assume we agree with their sin?
If they claim to be Christians, but show no fruit of repentance, we should gently and lovingly lead them to the truths of Scripture and pray that they will see the error of their ways and repent.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
We are warned because we are all susceptible to sin. Every last one of us.
“If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3).
The truth is we love to point out the sins of others because it makes us feel better about our own failures. “At least I’m not that bad!” So we can stay in our “not so bad” sins, while we fixate on others’ “really bad sins.” The problem is we are not the one who decides the weight of sin. All of it separates us from God. We are nothing apart from Jesus. We are hopeless and helpless without Him. We need Jesus just as much as the next person.
If that person is not a Christian, how much more do they need what we have! Instead of condemning, we should be shining the light of Jesus, and the only way to do that is to love.
Call the Midwife is a British show set in Poplar, England in the early 60s, about a group of midwives and nuns who deal with the poverty of East End London. A recent episode told the story of a young teacher who found herself pregnant by a married man. She was fired from her job, kicked out of her apartment, and rejected by the father. The young girl, in her fear and desperation, tried to abort her own baby. In the episode, one of the midwives, who quietly judged her in the beginning, is brought to tears and remorse when she realizes that she failed to just be a friend to the girl. The episode ends with these words:
“Shame is born in public and lived out secretly;
what is not seen cannot be scrubbed away
But so much can be made bearable by love
By cherishing what is
and not condemning fault or flaw
By never locking doors
By keeping hearts open
And holding each other forever in the light”
-Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife
If I am ever in doubt about how to respond to someone in words or deeds, I always remind myself of this one truth: Err on the side of love. I may make a mistake, but at least let it be said that I loved too much and not that I failed to love enough. Everyone knows John 3:16, but most of us couldn’t quote John 3:17. Funny, I seem to recall that being one of my son’s favorite verses, though.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
Yes, there will be times that we need to confront people in their sin, but we need to be led by the Holy Spirit with much love and prayer when we do. Most of the time, however, what a friend or spouse or family member really needs is not our pointing finger but our loving arms. They need to see us model the example of Jesus, who said, “Has no one condemned you?…Then neither do I condemn you…” (John 8:10-11).
Let’s model true love and give people the space and grace to grow. Sometimes a smile and a warm embrace speak volumes more than a pointing finger ever could. Let’s err on the side of love–a remedy that makes all things well.