Sunday, June 10, 2012
Drunks and Degenerates?
I once heard a pastor, in a Sunday morning church sermon, lament the “drunks and degenerates” in the world. I was stopped short by the remark. Shocked, I mentally checked-out of the sermon, sat back, and asked myself if that was my attitude also. I realized that God has truly been doing a work in my heart the past two years, replacing haughty condemnation with compassion for those I read about in the paper arrested for various crimes. His conviction is replacing my heart of stone with a heart of humility by reminding me that I was once counted among the so-called “drunks and degenerates.”
We must always celebrate and praise God for victorious Christian living. I thank God for doing in me what I could never have done on my own. But still, as I considered the state of my heart towards the lost that Sunday morning, I realized I have a long way to go. Sometimes it’s easier to muster compassion for the obvious prisoners to sin than those who aren’t breaking the legal law, but are breaking God’s law on a daily basis. Either way, I realized on that Sunday morning that name-calling and derision is hardly the place for Christian hearts to dwell when looking at the world.
The best way God has taught me to ward off pride is to remind me of my own failures and sin, and for me to thank Him for His saving grace and forgiveness in my life, and ask it for others in their life as well. I try to remember to ask God to reveal any unknown sin in me, and that I will agree with God on His estimation of my heart and behavior. I pray that I will ask the same for brothers and sisters in Christ (including pastors and church leaders), as well as for those in the world. Yet it's one thing to know and aspire to all this, but another to actually do it. We must ask and rely on God.
We can all fall to a so-called “degenerate” state the minute we take our mind and heart off Jesus and place it on our flesh (i.e. “me”). We dare not ever resort to non-association with the lost through spiritual pride. Because we, ourselves, though saved through faith in Christ and His work of redemption, still sin.
David Roper, in the Spring 2012 “Our Daily Bread” devotional, addresses this very concern when he writes,
“I learned that we cause unfathomable sorrow when we dishonor and debase others through bigotry. Every human being is created in the image of God—more like God than any other creature and worthy of honor. To demean that image is to wound another human being at the deepest level. There is but one race: the human race.”
Bigotry covers race, but also our attitude toward “drunks and degenerates” as well as anyone we enjoy harboring distaste towards: the rich, the beautiful, the creative, the mathematical, the political, the conservative, the liberal, the athletic, the intellectual and the uneducated.
Roper ends his devotional with these words: “God desires that we show respect to all people, because everyone bears His image.”
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
“Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’” Luke 15:1-7