Be Tender With Sinners
“Go easy on those who hesitate in the way of faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.”
-Jude 22-23 (MSG)
When my two children were in grade school, I created a reward system for completing household chores. Both kids had their own chart posted on the refrigerator that listed the daily task they were to do and a place to mark points earned for that duty. At the end of the week, points were tallied and could be used to “buy” a reward.
Once particular week, my son had been negligent with his tasks. When I reminded him of his uncompleted chores, he was flippant in his response. Feeling disrespected, I reacted with zero tolerance, and I punished him by depleting his entire week’s points earned. Defeated, my boy went to his room sulking.
A few days later, we had guests over for dinner, and my friend, seeing my son’s chore chart on the refrigerator, asked what kind of offense would cause a loss of all points for the week. I suddenly felt awful about my rash action in draining my son’s rewards. I realized my punishment had made me feel justified but had defeated my child. Looking back at the week I could see he had kept his distance and maintained his defiance.
We have instruction from the book of Jude on how to behave toward believers behaving outside of Christian character. Wisely Jude wrote to “be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin.” We would do well to respond to the bad behavior with concern for the individual, rather than reacting in self-defense. Like with my son, an impulsive reaction risks crushing the spirit of those we are called to dearly love.
Each of God’s children mature at a different pace...running a race that is their own. I easily see my own growth in faith as “normally progressing,” without giving much concern to sinful hesitations or detours. But do I give the same margin of mercy and grace to my Christian next of kin? Or do I zero out their reward points in the chart that I made for them to follow?
In reflection on my parenting, I did not ask my son why he did not do his chore. I was not considerate of what was going on within him. I showed more care for chores done and receiving dutiful respect than for my child acting out of character. I behaved badly and yet God has been so very tender with me.
In verses 20-21 Jude gives us prayer as the defensive action while maintaining the posture of love towards one another saying:
“But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ.”
Prayer is the way to be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin.
In what circumstances, and with which individuals, do you routinely struggle? Are there situations where you retaliate rather than retreat in prayer? Considering this scripture, what step might you take towards reacting differently?
Sharon has been writing and teaching biblically based curriculum, Bible studies, and devotionals since 2007.
She has had the unique position of writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both programs primarily served women in the homeless community.
Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She’s been privileged to speak in Leadership camps intended on encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young women.
Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.
Sharon and her husband, divide their time between Oregon and Hawaii. They have two grown children.
Currently, Sharon is encouraging others via her inspirational blog, but prefers sharing face to face. Additionally, she is working towards a degree in Ministry.
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