Friday, December 19, 2014

How to Love a Sinner: A Christmas Story

Christmas 1995
We hear a lot about hating the sin and loving the sinner these days. And I sort of agree with the notion—as long as we're really clear about how to love that sinner.

Of course, the Bible tells us who the sinners are. For easy reference, here's a list from Romans 3:23: 

  • "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (NIV). 
So if you happen to know anyone on that list, maybe you can relateand learn how to love a sinner.

I was a divorced nineteen-year-old. Single mom to a toddler. And it was Christmastime. I had obviously broken a commandment or two in the past couple of years, and let's just say I wasn't feeling like Mom of the Year. God was already preparing to send me the man who would complete our little family, but I didn't know that. And I was feeling quite lonely. 

Don't get me wrong: that toddler was my joy. But sometimes being with people who speak in complete sentences is a plus, especially on a too-quiet Christmas morning.

I don't remember how it came about. I don't even remember if they brought gifts. But I do know this: early on Christmas Day, my grandparents showed up just in time to celebrate the joy of the morning with my little boy and me. 

It wasn't the first time my grandparents had shown me how to love a sinner. And it certainly wouldn't be the last. But that one act spoke volumes—not so much because they were my grandparents, but because they were leaders of the church, a pastor and the pianist. 

If a couple so steeped in God's Word and worship, these leaders of His church, could love me, then maybe so could I.

Loving a sinner isn't only an “I'll pray for you” kind of love or even a drop-some-quarters-in-the-red-bucket love. It's love that shows up at a teenage mom's house with breakfast on Christmas morning. It's a love that leaves His throne in heaven for an animal trough on earth. It's a tell-the-people-how-much-God-loves-them-until-they-kill-You-for-it kind of love.

It's messy. It's scary. And it's beautiful.

That's the love of Christmas. 

And that's how you love a sinner.