Do we love sinners like we ought to? Jesus hung out with prostitutes, drunkards, and tax collectors. He loved them with unconditional love. The Pharisees scoffed at him for helping the poor, lonely, sick, and lame, but that didn't stop him. Jesus cared for them and wasn't afraid to be associated with them. He healed people on the Sabbath, much to the dismay of the Pharisees, who accused him of breaking the law in Matthew 12.
Sadly, the Pharisees missed the point. They believed that the law was to the only way to be made right with God, but that's not true. Romans 5:20 tells us that, "God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant." In the following chapter, Paul commands us not to let sin control us. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires: "Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace." (Romans 6:12-14)
The law's purpose is to show us how sinful we are, but God has set us free from the power of sin by his Son's death on the cross and resurrection because of his great love. God loved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Ephesians 2:4-5) God loves us, and ought to love others - not just those who have a personal relationship with Christ, but also those burdened by the weight of sin. How often do we refuse to have conversations with drunkards because we're scared that they might lead us into sin or we're scared of what other Christians will think of us? We have the power of Christ in us, which brought Jesus back to life again, so there's nothing to be afraid of. Fear of other people and what they think of us is a lie of the enemy, Satan. Moreover, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we have been called to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23)
As disciples of Christ, shouldn't we love sinners and spend time with them like he did? Maybe you'd rather just hand out tracts to people and continue walking. I'm not saying that handing out tracts is wrong, but there's a better way. God created us to be relational beings, and his desire is that we would develop relationships with others so that we can lead sinners to Christ and encourage, strengthen, and teach other believers. If we're going to love like Christ does, we might have to go out of our way. Ridicule might be thrown at us, even by our Christian brothers and sisters, and we might get a bad reputation.
It's worth the cost, though, because we should see many more people come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior as they notice the difference that the Holy Spirit is making in our lives and seek to know the only One who can give them the love, grace, and peace that they need. And even if we don't see the fruits of our labor, at least we have planted seeds that others will water so that people might come to receive Christ's free gift of salvation.
Let's love as Christ did, and build relationships with sinners, drunkards and prostitutes.
"We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord." -Romans 15:2