I'm getting "the itch." It has happened with every blog I've ever started. My posts become rushed...incoherent.. I didn't think it would happen with this one so quickly although I'm sure my lack of internet connection (and computer) at home are the culprits. I've thought of several topics I'd like to discuss, but they come to me at the most random times--at church, after the pastor makes a point in the sermon, at night, when I'm staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep...again, on the way to work in my car when I see someone walking along the sidewalk.
Ehhh...something that's been weighing on me quite heavily is justification vs. sanctification. I've been burdened by my past responses to brothers and sisters in the faith that I deemed "lost" due to behaviors I observed that didn't fit my "Christian behavior list." Funny coming from an ocassional drinker, who wears pants, sits in corporate worship without a head covering, who is in constant crisis regarding the ministry of motherhood---all behaviors and/or viewpoints that would cause some in certain Christian circles to question my faith in Christ.
I can remember an encounter I had with a young woman this past fall. For some reason, I was unable to sleep a few days ago and my interaction with this woman came to my mind. Our discussion ended with her yelling "f&@# you" at least three times before storming away. At the time, I was sure that the gospel of Jesus Christ had offended her and that I'd done nothing wrong. As I stared at my wall, replaying the conversation in my mind, I became increasingly convinced it was not the gospel that had offended, but rather my approach. She professed Christ, but did confess to several behaviors that she acknowledged as sinful, but was willing to continue in them, due to Christ's death.
There was a point in our conversation that has echoed has (truthfully) come to my mind several times since that night. Trying to lead her into another area of scripture, I asked her, "How do you know you're a Christian, if you're still doing (x,y,z)?" She quickly shot back, "How do YOU know you're a Christian?!" I was admittedly taken aback, and honestly to this day, am not comfortable with my answer, which was wrought with my works, (out of love and obedience to Christ), but my works nonetheless. I had described my sanctification, not my justification. Now while it can be argued that one will be sanctified if one is justified (and I totally agree, faith without works is dead), I'm JUSTIFIED (i.e. a Christian), by faith in Christ alone.
So...there is a point here. Rather than questioning the young lady's justification, it would have more gracious to pray with her (which I am sure she would have been receptive to), show her the scriptures (which she seemed to have some respect for), and treat her lovingly like a sister in Christ. She revealed, immediately before cursing me out, that she'd been sexually assaulted about 2 months prior. I'm sure that the assualt impacted her emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. I was too busy "contending for the faith." Had I slowed down, I might have won back a sister through reminding her about the love of Christ for his sheep. Instead, my combative approach (Thanks WretchedRadio) offended her. I deeply regret how our conversation ended, but our meeting was by chance (not really, but yeah) and I wouldn't even recognize her today if she walked right up to me.
This is not a call to end or avoid evangelism due to the fear of offending someone. I'm saying, share the gospel and contend for the faith often, but do it biblically. I'm also saying, whenever you start measuring someone who professes Christ by the amount of sin in their life, look at the amount of sin your own life and repent, THEN pray for that brother or sister and go to him or her with loving rebuke. Let Christ pull the weeds, lest you root up the wheat along with them.
Painful lesson, but one learned.