Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What's Your Sign?

I know that because of God's love my sins are forgiven, if I only ask and repent. I know through God's grace, as demonstrated in the gift of Jesus, that my sins are forgotten. Because I know that I know that I know these things are true, my place in the Kingdom is secure. But in the meantime, I have to live on planet Earth...

Human beings seem to be, by their very nature, judgmental. We are quick to point out the flaws in others. We often rejoice in the failures of those around us. We flock to our Facebook and Twitter accounts to report when those around us fall short of perfection. Jesus taught (Matthew 7:4) that we should get the plank out of our eye before we point out the speck in someone else's; we seem to prefer throwing the plank at our neighbor. In God's eyes, a sin is a sin is a sin. For humans, some sins seem to be much worse than others- usually the sins we don't commit. Philip Yancey once wrote that "Christians get very angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do." And it's true. We see the sins of others as different and greater than our own. And when we do this, it becomes very hard to see people through the eyes of grace.

All of this started me wondering. What if the world operated in the following manner-  each of us had to wear a sign around our neck with our "plank" written on it before being allowed to pass judgement on anyone else? The worst part of us exposed to the world on a daily basis- forgiven by God but now out there to be judged by man. How would we see each other then? Would Adultery seem less significant than Grand Theft Auto? Would Shoplifter pale next to Drug Dealer? It's my guess that many of us would choose to give up the right to judge if we had to wear our own signs. The pain and embarrassment of the signs around our own necks would be more than we could bear. We would have neither the time nor the energy to worry about what others have done. Our focus would be on repentance, not judgement, and on the plank in our own eye- just as Jesus suggested. We could then pass grace instead of judgement.

I have to admit that my thoughts here are more than a little self-serving. You see, my sign is in many ways already out there for people to see. My sign, in the eyes of this world, would be judged a greater sin than yours. No matter what your sign says, mine sounds worse. But in truth, it wasn't until after I was labeled, after the sign was hung around my neck, that I began to fully appreciate that I, like many devoted Christians, did not have a full grasp of  grace. We talk about the Good News, but we don't really understand it. We know that Jesus forgave the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery, but we're not sure we would have. We know that Jesus forgave Peter for denying Him, but we can't imagine why. Theologians and historians have spent 2000 years arguing over who really killed Jesus- the Romans or the Jews- when the question is moot. Whoever it was, Jesus forgave them on the cross. It was not about assigning guilt- it was about offering grace. The Good News is that all of the really reviled people of the time of Jesus- tax collectors, lepers, hookers and more- were exactly the kind of people Jesus hung out with. The Christ did not simply ignore their signs- he ripped them off, tore them up and stomped on them! Jesus told us that he didn't come for the healthy; He came to heal the sick. The hurt and the lost were His number one priority. I think many Christians today take the opposite approach. We wish there was a special "Sinner's Section" ( kind of like the smoker's section used to be in restaurants) in the sanctuary where we could quarantine "those people." I think our attitudes would be much better and our love for the hurting much deeper if every time we started focusing on the sins of others we had to put on our signs...

So that's the challenge for this week. Every time you find yourself being judgmental or condemning of others, imagine yourself putting on your sign. Stop and think about how you would feel if everyone knew the worst thing abut you. And then remember the most important part- because of the love of God and the grace found in Jesus, you are not receiving the eternal judgement you deserve. You are forgiven. When Jesus said, "It is finished" while hanging on the cross, the sins of the world died with Him. Grace has crushed your sin- and everyone else's- and you are forgiven. If you'll remember that, then I promise you will begin to live out the words to one of my favorite old camp songs: "That's how it is with God's love, once you experience it.  You'll spread His love to everyone, you'll want to pass it on.." Take another step on the road to the Jesus Revolution.

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous2/08/2011

    very well said, i forwarded this via email to many of my dear friends.

  2. Great post, Carl! From a former legalist, thank you for expressing the truth of sin and forgiveness so well.

  3. Powerful Post! How different Christians and churches might be if we all had to wear those signs around our necks. We love to focus on the sins that don't consume us. Awesome quote from Yancey! I have recently started reading your blog and twitter feeds and I want to say thank you for sharing. I have been in paid youth ministry for about 9 years and appreciate the wisdom you share from your many years in service.

  4. Thanks Dave and Lyn! You guys are such an inspiration to me, and I appreciate your encouragement swo much!

  5. Great observations, CJ.

    Before my fall, I would have struggled with this though. I would have minimized my "sign." I would have excused every one of my sins and downplayed them.

    But that's what we do, isn't it? And, like you infer, that's why we need the holiness of God to compare ourselves to and not one another. Great blog.

  6. Thanks for the observations and the kind words, Dimmesdale. And that would be the awesome thing about the signs. No minimizing. Our sins posted in full. Just the way God sees them- and just the way God forgives them!

  7. FANTASTIC!!! Very well said. So inspiring, infact, I think I'll get a tee shirt printed with my "sign" on it... to keep me honest. :) But which sin should go on my sign? "RUDE", "PRIDEFUL", "HYPOCRITE", "SELF SERVING", "JUDGEMENTAL", "INCONSIDERATE", "IMPATIENT", "CONTROLLING", "OVERBEARING", "TOO BUSY"... I feel I struggle most with my pride... so maybe "PRIDEFUL" it is. Hum... I would just put "SINFUL" but I'm afraid that might send the wrong message and perhaps attract the wrong attention. ;) Grateful for you and thank you for sharing your heart.


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