An interesting tangant came up at the leadership retreat when we were talking about friends. We spent a lot of time talking about our Christian friends, and then spent some time talking about our relationships with those who don’t treasure Christ and are not believers. A comment was made that we passed completely over, but it got me thinking later. Someone said that we have to be careful not to impose our morality on our non Christian friends, that we shouldn’t hold them to the same standard we hold ourselves and other brothers and sisters in Christ too. That made me ask myself, “Why?”…
Several years ago I sat in a church and heard the pastor give the usual “if this isn’t your home church, don’t feel any obligation to participate in the given of tithes and offerings”. Certainly those who go to other churches shouldn’t feel compelled to give when visiting somewhere else; however, what about those who don’t go anwhere? It got me thinking, “Is the person’s money who doesn’t go to church their’s, or is God’s? Does God relieve people of the obligation to obey him because they don’t go to church (or even because they dont’ believe in him). Are they relieved of the obligation to be good stewards of their money, or the obligation to be appreciative of the gifts he has given them” Obviously, I answered those questions with a resounding, if someone perplexed, “No”.
When it comes to how we respond to sinful attitudes and behaviors in our non Christian friends, I have two thought: First, God has not relieved people of their obligations to obey. We are not holding people to our standards. Ever. That would be Pharisaical. However, God’s standard is what we are bound to, and what binds all people – whether believer or not. Eventually, everyone will be called to give an account of how they lived up to God’s standard.
My second thought is that holding people to the same standard God holds us to is actually an act of love. By holding people to that standard I mean calling sin what it is and confronting it – in believing brothers and sisters and nonbelieving friends as well. The goal is not to judge or condemn, but to restore to fellowship with God. Out of love we confront sin in our brothers and sisters because it dishonors God and because it hinders them from enjoying their best treausre, their greatest satisfaction and joy to the fullest. The same is true of our nonbelieving friends. Until they understand the weight and seriousness of their sin, they will not be inclined to seek or accept grace. And without grace, they will never experience the relationship with God that will bring them joy and satisfaction. All the sinful pleasures they pursue are just shadows of the true pleasure they crave. So out of love, we do hold our friends to God’s standard and call them out on their sin – gently, and tearfully of course. We do so because love seeks the greatest good for the loved, and their greatest good is a relationship with God
Every once in a while, I find myself arguing a position I don’t necessary like at the gut level. This is one of those times. I’m interested in your thoughts.
One thought on “how do we treat sin in those who don’t treasure Christ”
I think you are right. We must treat sin as sin and not merely as problem that we hold believers accountable to. I can relate to your struggle with it. I think it’s it hard for us to stomach because it is so much more uncomfortable, so much more difficult to do, so much less well received. It’s the same reason that the prophets weren’t very well liked or why the world has killed so many Christians. Speaking the truth of sin into a believer’s life means wanting to encourage them to grow in Christ. Speaking that same truth into a non-believer’s life means telling them that they are accountable to Someone greater than themselves, a truth they often don’t want to hear. Yet where better to share the Gospel? Very interesting post. Thanks for making me think.
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