There’s more to every story. Every picture we see, scene we observe, and life we attempt to sum up at a glance has a backdrop we aren’t privy to. Seeing through the eyes of the Holy Spirit is the only way to overcome the human inclination to mentally and emotionally ostracize the unfamiliar. I learned this lesson in a way I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but it was an integral step for me to make in my faith journey.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Ephesians 2:3
In my early twenties, I experienced a phenomenon many youths wander through: the rebellious phase. As a teenager, I was fortunate to be surrounded with God-fearing friends and role models that helped to mold and ground my faith. I was looked to as a leader among my peers and had, what I thought of at the time, a solid faith. What I was unaware of, however, was how dangerously unperceptive I was of the devil’s advances into my life. I had allowed myself to become prideful of the world I’d created for myself, and when I was no longer in control of that faux-perfect world, I fell… and I fell hard.
I experienced something during that time that was incredibly humbling. Brokenness is always coupled with humility, and the two create a lens into the world of the lost that becomes clear when pride no longer fogs your vision. As I walked through my out-of-control world and tried to make sense of who I’d become, I ended up observing people that I would have likely never associated with prior. I saw the shallowness. I felt the emptiness. I was in shock at the complete lack of morality and the constant drive to fill up every minute with activity. I hadn’t lived a sheltered life, mind you. I knew what was going on on college campuses and amongst young adults. But to know and to see are different experiences.
Just a few years prior, I would have scoffed and wondered, “How can they make these choices? Don’t they know how horribly they’re behaving? Can’t they see their depravity?” I would’ve internally turned up my nose with the knowledge that I would never be so foolish. But as I trudged through that time of my life, sifting through my own filth, I realized that not one of us in infallible. We all have the capacity to stray.
Eventually, I recovered. Time, friends, family, but most importantly, the long-suffering love of our Savior pulled me through and made me new. In that newness of heart, God awakened in me a deeper understanding of what it is to be lost. I knew that I was making mistakes as I was making them. I knew they went against God’s will for my life, but did the people I was making them alongside understand how they were breaking the heart of God? Did they comprehend the magnitude of choosing a life outside of His perfect plan? Maybe they did. So why were they still orchestrating their lives around sin and depravity?
The shroud of darkness is heavy, and without the light of Jesus in their lives, there was no chance for them to desire to recover their souls. I understood then that without eyes to see and ears to hear, my words would fall upon hard hearts and deaf ears. There would be no reception. The listeners would hear nothing but condemnation. I needed to come beside them in their brokenness, neither condemning nor condoning their behavior. I needed to show them pure, unadulterated, without-agenda love.
It’s never my job to change someone’s mind about the Gospel; that’s the business of the Holy Spirit.
My job is to show them Jesus. Romans 3:17 says this: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” That’s not to say that we should support sin in any way; quite the opposite. Be firm in your convictions. Do not waver from the sometimes difficult truths of Scripture. But in doing so, cling to the Gospel and to the hope of reconciling all souls to Christ, knowing that it is by grace that each of us is saved. Do not let your preconceived notions of humanity cloud your vision.
So, love humbly. Search out what it means to be like Christ to those around you and don’t assume that you already know. Never stop digging deeper into His character because He is our perfect example. We need to realign our vision and see the whole picture of Christ: His holiness and His grace. Sinners flocked to Christ because they knew they were loved and desired by Him, but He also never wavered in His condemnation of sin.