Be or De

One of the random thoughts I have been processing lately...

Because of my sin, I put people in an awkward position. My life choices forced people to have to choose how to respond to me. I will live with that reality for a long time.

When we make sinful choices (or any choice with which others disagree for that matter), responses vary from person to person. Some agree. Others disagree. Some choose to withdraw. Others choose to reach out. Some offer grace. Others prefer judgment. Some resort to isolation. Others seek restoration.  And to be honest, many simply do not know how to respond. I get that. My actions caused that.

I hurt people with my choices and as a result, some chose to defriend me.  I use the term defriend here because it is a common and easy practice in our facebook-infused, social media world. If you dislike or disagree with someone, you can simply defriend them with the click of a mouse. So I use the term defriend emblematically (although it did happen literally as well). 

Let me give examples of what I am talking about. After my sin was exposed publicly and properly, I was told by an influential pastor in my life and one of the most popular evangelical leaders in our time (who I will not name) that I was going to hell (along with a few other choice phrases I will not repeat here). I was defriended by people I led to Christ, by people I baptized, by people I married, by people I walked with through marital problems, divorces, adultery, and remarriages. I was defriended by people I love and who love me. I was defriended by people with whom I have laughed, cried, prayed, and served. I was defriended by friends, family members, mentors, and people I had mentored. I was defriended by people I was influenced by and people I influenced. I was defriended by people I taught and those who taught me, people I led and those who led me. 

Let me say quickly: I'm not blaming those who made the choice to "defriend" me. I hurt them deeply. I betrayed and deceived them. So I am not passing blame in any way. I am simply stating reality. Our natural reaction when we are hurt (especially by someone we love or trust) is to withdraw - to defriend.  Let's be honest: it is easier to defriend because loving sinners (especially those we love and who are making a choice with which we disagree) is messy and complicated and awkward. We are not wired to do it. It requires a divine intervention of grace.

However when we read the story of Jesus, it is clear that He chose to put Himself in situations that were uncomfortable for the religious people of His day. He chose to befriend sinners instead of defriending them.  He chose to surround Himself with both people who were far from God and with those who were afraid, confused, arrogant, skeptical but following.  He constantly found Himself with messy people (whether followers or not). He pursued them. He went out of His way to be near them. He went to their houses and parties. He loved them when others condemned them. He forgave them when others berated them. He befriended them even when He was sharply criticized by the religious for doing so. He befriended them to the point He was accused of being one of them. He was even labeled a friend of sinners.

Jesus was a friend of people just like me - jacked up sinners. He loves me in spite of me. He loves messy people. As a matter of fact, He gave His life for them.  This truth is the heart of the gospel. It is what the good news of Jesus is all about: He died so that sinners might have life.

I am a reactionary person. I often react in the wrong manner. It is easy for me to defriend when I should befriend. I understand 100% why people responded the way they did to my sin. I have responded the exact same way at different times in my life. I will probably do so again in the future. Befriending sinners is tough and yet it is what Jesus did and calls us to do - not just in a facebook kind of way but in a way that shows them the love of Jesus in spite of who they are.

Over the past several months, God has put some incredible people in my life who have loved me in spite of me. None of them approved of my actions. None of them justified my behavior. None of them told me I was doing the right thing. They just loved me. They befriended me. They spoke truth into my life. Bottom line: they were simply Jesus to me.

God is helping me find healing. He has already forgiven me. He forgave me the moment I asked. And yet healing takes longer - it is a process.  As I find healing, God is teaching me what it means to find grace and forgiveness in the friend who is closer than a brother - the One who not only talked about loving sinners but demonstrated it by befriending them and then dying for them.

Based on my own personal experience in recent years, I want more than ever to be the type of person who befriends before he defriends.  I want to be that type of person because I have needed that type of person. More importantly, I want to be that type of person because that's the type of person Jesus is.

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