Wrecked Marriages, Infidelity, and Addiction…Seeds for Revival?

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I love how Jesus brought outsiders into his circle. I love how he kept company with people we would least expect. Don’t you?

Jesus was always welcoming pagans and prostitutes and ‘sinners’ into his company…wooing us all to belong with him even before we believed in him. Meanwhile, the Pharisees and scribes muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2). Jesus made no apologies. He was willing to offend the faithful in order to make space for the sinful and the sick. He was willing to be associated with drunks and gluttons, and even labeled as such, in the eyes of the religious establishment. He did not come for the righteous, after all, but the sinners. He did not come for the healthy, but the sick.

In my years of ministry, whenever Christians have assumed a similar posture, something like revival has emerged.

Jesus and sinners: he welcomed and ate with them. He loved and reassured, and refused to condemn.

A woman is caught in the act of adultery. She sins against God. She wrecks a home. She brings shame on herself and to her community. Pious men take her shame public (John 8:1-11).

Lawbreakers must not be tolerated, they thought. An adulteress must be condemned for her behavior, cast out for her infidelities, shamed for her shameful act. She must be made into an example. She must wear the scarlet letter.

This is what happens in groups with a narrow “us.” A coliseum culture forms. The mob organizes. A common enemy is named and the caricature is established –the woman caught in adultery. The sinner. Not a person, but a thing. Not a she, but an it. Not an image-bearer, but an animal. Not a woman, but a whore. Then the pouncing. Then the shame.

But not Jesus. Jesus, left alone with the woman, simply says to her two things:

I do not condemn you.

Now leave your life of sin.

The order is everything. Reverse the order of these two sentences and we lose the gospel. Reverse the order and we lose Christianity. Reverse the order and we lose Jesus.

Jesus expands his “us.”

God demonstrates his own love toward us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our hearts.
(Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:20).

Wherever love dominates the environment, it’s no condemnation first and ethics after that. Wherever Jesus is in charge, love will establish the environment for the morality conversation.

It is not our repentance that leads God to be kind.

It is God’s kindness that leads us to repent.

I have been a minister for over two decades and a Christian for over three, I have never met a person who fell in love with Jesus because a Christian scolded them about their ethics. Have you?

Once we were meeting with some friends for prayer. Just before we began praying, in came a husband and a wife that we had never met. They had been invited by someone else in the group. The man’s name was Michael and he was drunk. And his wife had a desperate somebody-please-help-me-because-I’m-dying-inside look on her face.

As we prayed together, Michael decided to chime in. His was a drunk prayer that went on for over ten minutes. He prayed some of the strangest things. God, protect us from the Klingons. God, I really want a Jolly Rancher right now, will you bring us some Jolly Ranchers? God, please move my bananas to the doghouse.

After the “Amen,” everyone looked at me. What will the pastor do? Thankfully, I didn’t need to do anything because a woman from the group, full of love and wisdom, offered Michael a cookie. As the woman was giving him a cookie and entertaining conversation about Klingons and such, five or six others went over to his wife and begged for insight on how they could help the situation.

This little interaction, this way of responding with love and no condemnation first, became one of the most transformative experiences I have ever witnessed. The kindhearted offer of a cookie led to a different kind of mob – a mob of grace coming around the couple and their two young boys, which led to a month of rehab, which led to sobriety, which led to a restored home and marriage, which led to Michael becoming a follower of Jesus, which led to him later becoming an elder in the church.

Grace comes before ethics. No condemnation comes before the morality discussion. Kindness leads to repentance. Love – The broad embrace of Jesus’ narrow path – creates the most life-giving experiences you’ll ever be part of.

Dictionary.com defines love as “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection.” This resonates with many familiar song lyrics. Tina Turner says love is a second-hand emotion. Chaka Khan says she feels for you, and on the basis of this, she thinks she loves you.

But maybe Pat Benetar was the one whose vision for love was most in line with Jesus. Because Pat Benetar said that love is a battlefield.

Love is hard. It’s a battlefield because love – agape – is the same word Jesus used when he told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. When love takes on this definition, it becomes much more than a feeling. Words like tenacious, resilient, gutsy, vulnerable and selfless come to mind.

Love is stronger than death, that saves sinners, gives adulteresses hope, that makes drunk men sober, that will redeem the universe – this love is counter-culture. It is other-worldly in its nature because its truest test comes when we don’t feel warm personal attachment or deep affection toward the beloved.

Love that comes from Jesus is a cruciform love. It’s a love that leads us us to broaden our embrace, to move toward the Other, to include the Other in our “us” because Jesus has included us in his. The hard love, the battlefield love, the tenacious and strong love, agape – this is the love that leads Jesus and the people of Jesus to love their persecutors even better than their persecutors love each other.

Does love go this far? Can love go this far? Should love go this far?

LOVE did go this far.

How do we become the kind of people – the kind of lovers – who form a grace mob that silences the shame mob, who respond to a drunk husband with cookies and commitment, who run to his hurting wife and petition her for the honor of helping share her burden in some way? How does this kind of love flourish?

There is only one way. Love must be a Person to us before it can become a verb. And the One who is Love Incarnate — Jesus — doesn’t just love us when we’re at our best. He also loves us when we are at our worst. When we are caught in the act. When we fall asleep instead of watching and praying with him. When we deny him three times. When we become his persecutors. When we come into his prayer meetings drunk – drunk on our ambition, our greed, our resentful grudges, our pornographic imaginations, our self-righteousness. Even then, his love for us is secure.

From these places he asks, “Do you like cookies? May I get you one? Will you sit with me? How about rehab…may I accompany you there? May I pay the fee? May I come alongside you toward sobriety, then a new life, then a seat at my Table, then a job in my Kingdom? I went to the battlefield, I loved from the battlefield, to set this love trajectory for your life. Protection from the Klingons. Sweeter than Jolly Ranchers. All you need is nothing. All you need is need.”

All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of him.

How do we love like Jesus?

It starts with resting and receiving. It starts by stopping.

We can stop trying to love like Jesus and instead, learn what it means to be with him.

Because the more we are with Jesus, the more we will become like him. Love is caught more than it is achieved. Get close to LOVE, and love tends to rub off.

Let’s pursue this path, the love path…shall we?

 


Scott’s latest book, A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us-Against-Them
is now available for individuals, discussion groups, and churches.

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9 responses to “Wrecked Marriages, Infidelity, and Addiction…Seeds for Revival?”

  1. Susie says:

    Lord help us to love better.

  2. Charles DeBardeleben says:

    Love this!

  3. Alison ross says:

    May it be so! Thank you Scott for ever taking us back to the true Jesus….. grateful!

  4. Robert Pirog says:

    Don’t know who said it first but it stuck with me>
    Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend.

  5. Marilyn Davies says:

    Greetings from Wales, deeply moved to tears reading again these awesome words. The simplest but most profound message

  6. Greg says:

    God’s love, kindness and faithfulness are constant. They are first. And God’s love is deeply woven into the fabric of commandments and precepts for us to live by. And God hates sin because they are contrary to His character. And lastly God saves us by grace through faith in Jesus redeeming work on the cross which cost Him dearly and is freely given. We probably agree on the above.

    I think where I would might differ with you is the definition of repentance. Where you seem to suggest that repentance is turning from sin in our works, I believe it is more changing ones mind in agreement about what is sinful against a Holy God. Without first agreeing with God what is sinful against Him, salvation from that sin cannot be understood or had. Right? How in the world can anyone understand what salvation is until they understand what is sinful which they must be saved from? And how in the world can a person recognize the price Jesus paid when the reason is so watered down? And how can one understand the depth of love from God until we understand what is best for us as per His design including precepts to live by as well as forgiveness from sin. Repentance and faith are very similar in their nature and Scripture supports the fact that both faith and grace are gifts. (Eph 2:8,9) Also see Acts 2:28 is a great text showing the correct order. The passage you use is one whereby Jesus can pronounce salvation by speaking a word because He is the giver of grace and faith which may very well have included the faith of sorrow for sin in the woman at the well that proceeded his declaration of no condemnation. It was the pharisees that Jesus had to work on a little bit harder to get them into an attitude of repentance before they could understand grace.

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt that we just differ on definitions. I do not believe that we must do a single thing in our works before by faith trusting in Christ for salvation from sin which He hates. But if we don’t differ on definitions, then we should contemplate deeply the terrible story about Ravi Zacharius. There is a good chance that he is not in heaven right now and is experiencing suffering in hell. I have agonized over this sad story and I cry tears for his family and ministry partners he left behind in the mess he created. I would suggest that there is a possibility that Ravi may have experienced a backward gospel where he was told as a suicidal teenager that God loves him and will not condemn him along with a sort of shout out something like, “Oh yeah by the way repentance about sin is important too when you have time.” Cheap grace is not Biblical grace and has no transformative power. If this is the message that Ravi heard and staked his new existence upon, there is a chance that he became selfishly religious (and what a phenomenal religious actor he turned out to be) but never experienced power in true salvation. Scripture is clear that those who fail to come into agreement with God’s word about things like thievery, idolatry and sexual immorality and purposely involve themselves in lifestyles absorbed in such living not approved by the very God who loves them will not be saved. see 1 Cor 6:9-11

    According to this article, one can by faith presume that God is a loving God, and keep an attitude of unrepentant sinfulness that is inevitably going to be fully lived out and expect salvation if they die. This is100% not supported by Scripture.

  7. Greg says:

    This is spot on and Biblical. See link. I was in tears of joy and conviction. I will pursue listening to the other speakers at this 2011 conference. If the gospel is the power unto salvation, then we need to stop using psychology and trickery to push folks into the faith and actually allow the gospel to be the power. Paul confronted the “super-apostles” on this issue. The reason anyone thinks this “doesn’t work” is because they are either impatient w God or just have not seen the power of the gospel that includes faith of repentance in their own life.

    https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/TM11-6/how-to-recognize-true-repentance-don-green

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