Reading this morning in the book of Nehemiah, I was struck once again with how much God forgives. Not just once or twice, but over and over and over and... you get the idea. Chapters 8 and 9 list out the number of times that Israel demonstrated their disobedience and stiff-neckedness, and how God was listening every time they came to repentance and called upon Him for salvation from their current mess.
How thankful we should be that He hasn't changed! I shudder to think of my list of stiff-neckedness, but rejoice in all of the subsequent forgiveness. We truly serve a God of unfathomable love!!
Recently our pastor spoke on forgiveness, and we also spoke of a forgiving kind of love at our mom's group last week. As children of God we have such a huge responsibility to demonstrate forgiveness to the world. Yet, why is it that Christians as a whole are often seen as judgemental and critical of everyone around them, including those that we are supposed to be introducing to Christ?? It's no wonder that people label Christians hypocrites!
I confess I need to be better at forgiving. I am better at forgetting, but that is not true forgiveness. Neither is overlooking the situation at hand. Yet I am often guilty of these. Especially when I am afraid of offending whomever I'm with. How do we find a Christ-like balance when dealing with people that need to be confronted with something? When dealing with brothers and sisters in Christ the rules are very clear, because they are held to the same standard. But, when it's someone that is unfamiliar with right living how do we strike a balance between showing them what is right without coming across as condemning?
Christ showed nothing but compassion for those that were struggling with sin, unless they were proud and unrepentant. Yet, He was able to get across to them on such an amazing level. I've been doing some reading on the "Socratic Method" of evangelism, which approaches things much as Christ did. Using questions, instead of statements, which cause the listener to self-examine, rather than feel attacked. Here are a couple of sites that explain this method...
The Barna Group
The Cultural Commission
We are called to be salt and light to the world, not salt in the wound and a spotlight. My prayer is that as we are exposed to those around us that need God's love, that we are able to demonstrate His compassion first, and His instruction for right living second.