One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is demanding the world to live by a Christian standard. According to the Bible, we are all born into a fallen nature. Before I became a Christian, I tried to be religious, but I could not live by the perfect standard of Christ. After becoming a Christian, I didn’t do much better. My struggles didn’t improve until I learned what the Bible meant that I am a new creation, and for this reason, I am called to walk according to the Spirit. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives through me.”
The truth is, a fallen nature cannot live by an eternal spiritual standard. Bruce Jenner’s gender identity crisis is not the problem – it’s a symptom. The problem is that in the flesh – or our old natural state, we are all slaves to our passions. It just happens to be that some people’s passions are socially acceptable. I don’t see Christians blowing up over a sailor that has a girl in every port. Or the countless people in the church that give in to their passions with the opposite sex. Or what about people whose God is their belly (Philippians 3:19). What about the warning of Proverbs 23:20, which tells us not to mix company with gluttons, and to put a knife to our own throat if our appetites are aroused by the foods of the glutton?
This is the very reason why Romans 2:1 says that we who judge others are condemning ourselves, for we are guilty of the same things. The truth is, we are all born in the same boat as Jenner, even though our symptoms may be different.
What is the response the church should be making? Is it to wag our fingers at someone who is clearly tormented by their inner struggles, and condemn them for making choices that they hope will meet their needs? Is this really what the Bible teaches? Or could it be that Jesus showed us how to reach starving souls?
The woman caught in adultery is one of my favorite examples of ministry. Just as we see in the church today, religious people threw this woman at Jesus’ feet and said, “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law condemns her to die by stoning, what to you say?”
Why did they come to Jesus? They didn’t need His permission. The Bible says that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but bring them into salvation. The same message is given to the church by Christ. He said, “You are not of the world, but I have called you out of the world.” This is the heart of the great commission. Jesus did not command His disciples to force the world to live like Christians. He commanded them to go out into the world, call others out of the world, and make disciples.
The world knew that Jesus lived contrary to it. This includes the religious world. They thought they were serving God, but the Bible calls them enemies of the cross. Jesus even warned that they would persecute His followers while thinking they were doing God a service. Why did religion hate Christ? Because He was full of grace and truth. Grace does not condemn sin. Grace overcomes sin with the goodness of God. This is why the Bible says that our righteousness is worthless to God, but His righteousness is a gift to us. We are righteous by becoming receivers of grace, not accomplishers of the law. In fact, the Bible says that by the deeds of the law, no one will be justified in God’s sight.
The woman in adultery is the evidence of this truth. Instead of pointing at the woman’s sins, Jesus pointed at the sins of her accusers. When He stooped down, He wrote things on the ground that began convicting them. I imagine Him writing things like, Adultery = to lust is adultery in our heart. Thievery = he that is greedy is a thief in his heart. He that covets is guilty of idolatry. One by one, Jesus exposed their hidden sins, then He stood up and said, “Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.”
Grace was given to the woman before the call to sin no more was issued. “Are there none to accuse you? Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.”
The thieving tax collector Zacchaeus was hated by the religious community. He robbed people with the Roman tax system, was greedy, covetous, and guilty by any religious standard. Yet without pointing out a single sin, Zacchaeus was transformed by grace when He spent time with Christ. As he was filled with the love of God, he volunteered his money. “I will give half my money to the poor, and if I have robbed anyone, I will repay four times what I took.”
Ironically, the religious rich young ruler refused to part with his money in Luke 18, but the sinful scoundrel who was anti-religious eagerly gave up this world once he experienced the grace of Christ.
And we haven’t even gotten into the prostitute, Mary Magdalene, the foul mouthed fisherman named Peter, or the other thieving tax collector Matthew. Matthew and Peter both abandoned their sin without Jesus pointing out their faults. Once they saw the value of the new life of Christ, their old life suddenly looked like trash. They soon became the apostles that Jesus used to present the church of the New Covenant. Or what about Paul. He was a murderer of Christians, yet Jesus called him through grace, and the very religious Paul declared that his old life was nothing but a dung heap compared to the excellence of knowing Christ.
Another great example was the woman at the well. She was living in open sin. Her sinful reputation was so shameful that she would not go to the well to draw water until the heat of the day. The other women came for water in the cool morning and the cool of the evening, but to avoid the scornful looks and whispers of gossip, she came during the high noon time of the day. In a culture when divorce was almost unheard of, she was a five time divorcee, and was shacking up with a man who wasn’t her husband. She was the town tramp.
Just as it is with the struggles of someone like Bruce Jenner, her life was a symptom of her problem. She couldn’t fulfill the need of her soul, so she bounced from relationship to relationship. She was openly living in adultery, yet Jesus didn’t address her sin. He addressed her need. Her soul was parched and starving, and her life was a symptom of that problem. So how did Jesus address this? He focused on her need; not her lifestyle. “I can give you living water.” He explained that not only could He satisfy her soul, but this living water would become a spring of life that would flow out from her.
As He spoke, she began to recognize her need, though she still believed this need could be satisfied in her flesh. Jesus used the need of her flesh to reveal the only source of satisfaction and fulfillment; the life of the Spirit.
Are we ministering like Jesus did? Are we looking at the Bruce Jenners of the world who are trying to fulfill their need with the dry things of this life, and telling them about the living waters? Did the scorn and condemnation of religious people change the woman at the well? The religious community scolded her, and this only caused her to avoid them. Beating her over the head with the law didn’t do anything to rescue her from her sin.
The truth is that we don’t need to shove condemnation into anyone’s face. We don’t even need to tell them that they are sinners. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. That is His job; not ours. Our job is to point others to the living water. When we unveil the grace of Christ, the Spirit unveils the true need – to be rescued from a parched soul corrupted by sin – and in doing so, people are able to see the life-giving living water that is given freely as an act of God’s grace. Grace is the unearned and unearnable love of God.
Trying to chew moisture out of dead sticks only looks good because the spring of life has never been seen. To tell someone to stop trying to draw life from death sounds foolish to someone who sees this as the only hope of their soul. To tell the Jenners of this world to stop trying to find satisfaction from their passions seems foolish. It’s something that cannot be comprehended until they see life. And the church is repelling instead of drawing.
Why were sinners drawn to Christ, but religion hated Him? Why are only religious people drawn to the church, but the church repels sinners. It repels even those who are seeking answers. If sinners are repelled by the church, but were drawn to Christ, what does this tell us about the spirit of our churches?
The Bible tells us that the way of the Spirit is incomprehensible to the natural mind. Yet we are trying to force people into a way of thinking and living that cannot be lived outside of the Spirit. Instead of condemning, we should be pointing others to the living water.
Until Bruce Jenner or any other person is transformed from within, constraining them from the outside is only building frustration, and driving them away from life. We have to remember one of the basic truths of faith. No one can live until they die. When we put our trust in Christ, we were crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and a new life was given to us as a gift of God. We are born from above, with a new spirit, which has a new nature. That nature is the only way we can live in righteousness. Bruce doesn’t have that nature. Until he does, condemnation is fruitless and we, are becoming the very people who drove the woman at the well into isolation.
Our call is to be like Christ. We should be showing the world that the Spirit is life to their parched soul, and when someone gets a glimpse of true life, their life of the flesh will become worthless. Or as Jesus said, the kingdom of God is like the man who found a treasure in a field. For the joy of obtaining that treasure, he sold everything he had to buy that field. Everything in this life becomes worthless once we discover the treasure of the Spirit. Until then, demanding someone to sell out seems foolish. Grace must come first. Until then, all affection, passion, and value will be on what cannot satisfy – the life of this world.
Let us become preachers of living water instead of condemners of parched souls.