About twenty years ago, when I was a baby Christian, I remember getting angry about a rather well-known person’s sin. She happened to be in the media spotlight, had just come to Christ, and the Christian community was rejoicing over this victory (touchdown for team Jesus!). Then this woman said something very offhand and disrespectful of Jesus (most likely out of sheer ignorance–what does a brand spanking new baby know?). Anyway, I recall feeling angry and became offended at how ungrateful she seemed for God’s goodness. Then the Lord broke into my thoughts. Pray for her.
The idea of doing something good for her took me aback. She doesn’t deserve it, Lord! But grudgingly I prayed for her correction and true conversion. A few days later, she was in the news apologizing for her earlier comments. I was overcome with joy, because the Lord not only corrected her, but also fixed my own attitude as well.
I can’t say that I never get angry at sin anymore, but the good Lord does not tire of reminding me when I need to have my heart more tender toward people. After all, Paul tells the Ephesians that unbelievers are “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18) It should not surprise us when non-Christians say or do things that are offensive, because it is only the glorious light of the gospel message that frees us from spiritual darkness.
As a matter of fact, it should not surprise us even when fellow Christians say or do things that are offensive. I love the apostle Peter. He blurts out what is on his mind. When Jesus talked to his disciples about sin and how to handle it, Peter wanted to know how many times he had to forgive his brother or sister. The fact that he wanted an exact number so he could keep a running tally is so human. But Jesus tells him “not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) He then proceeds to tell a parable that illustrates God’s generous mercy towards each of us, and how we must imitate that mercy among ourselves.
When I think about it, Jesus did not get angry with sinners. The only times we read in scripture that Jesus became indignant was when the religious leaders showed no mercy. Jesus, on the other hand, reached out to sinners to help them, teach them, forgive them. When the Jews caught a woman in the act of adultery and dragged her out to be stoned, Jesus was not angry with her. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father (who depicts God) is not angry with his wayward son–he is grieving for his lost child. When Jesus is dying on the cross between two criminals who mock him, he is not angry with them! He actually used that opportunity to do what he came to do, “to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) He still does. Let us “go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, even when you hung on the cross and the thieves mocked you, the people mocked you, and the religious leaders mocked you, you did not get angry. You said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Help us recognize opportunities to pray, not condemn. Amen.