If I saw a house on fire and I knew that someone was asleep inside, I wouldn’t stand idly by just because I didn’t want to disrupt their dream cycle. I would yell as loudly as I could to wake that person up, and throw rocks at their window until they responded to my desperate warnings. How could anyone walk away if they see smoke and flames coming from a home, smell the fumes and hear the crackling of wood? I think most of us would not hesitate to help someone when we see the danger is real, whether we know them or not, because we would not want them to go up in flames. Do you think that the person snatched out of the blazing home would tell us we should not have meddled in their business? No, that’s silly. How can anyone be offended by someone who cares enough to save a life? Yet, they are.
Many people take offense when someone attempts to save them from spiritual death. Why is that? I suppose the main reason is because unseen danger is much easier to deny. For most people, if it can’t be seen, smelled, tasted, touched or heard it must not exist. Sometimes people take offense because they feel like their character is under attack. Sometimes the people who are trying to help don’t know how to go about telling someone lovingly that sin is unacceptable to God, and that repentance is a mandatory condition of salvation. The message is right but the methods might not be.
Although it is our duty to spread the message of salvation to everyone who will listen, and also to encourage others to do what is right, we must do it in love and with respect; without self-righteousness. No one is perfect and according to God sin is sin. The goal in pointing out wrongdoing to anyone is to show them how to be more like Christ, not to make ourselves look like we have already reached that goal.
No one likes to hear the truth if it is not in their favor. Truth has a way of rubbing us the wrong way. It irritates us to hear someone say that we have to change the behavior that we have grown to enjoy. So, we find ways of justifying the things we do, of ignoring the warnings we hear, and even of denying that we are at fault at all. But, there are severe consequences to doing it our way. Romans 2:9 tells us very clearly that “…there will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil.” Evil, by the way, is determined by the standards written down in the bible, not ours. God authored the bible so we would know what is expected of us and what we can expect of Him. If we sin without knowing what we’re doing, God takes that into account. But if we sin knowing full well what we’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of our time if we don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God. (Romans 2:13 The Message (MSG)
I am eternally grateful (literally) that there were a few people in my life who loved me enough to dish out a little truth. I’ve got to admit that I didn’t like it at the time, and I had to work hard at reeling in my pride in order to be objective about what they were telling me. But, like most people, I already knew what I was doing wrong. You see when pleasure outweighs guilt, we will do things that go against our conscious and risk suffering the consequences. Sooner or later we come to realize that free will isn’t really free. The bible tells us that the truth is written in our hearts. The Message bible paraphrases Romans 2:14-15 like this: “They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong.”
When we choose to do what we feel is wrong, we are bothered in the doing of it. However, after continually choosing to go against our conscience, it becomes so badly scarred and calloused that we stop feeling any remorse or guilt at all. The bible calls this ‘the hardening of the heart’. This is a point of no return for many people. Rick Warren puts it this way; “The problem with conscience is that, of all the sources of finding truth, it is the least reliable, because the Bible teaches us that our conscience can be weakened. It can be warped. It can be hardened. It can be perverted. In fact, it can be killed. I would say somebody like Hitler had a dead conscience. So the more I violate my conscience, the more out of whack it gets. It just gets easier and easier to do the wrong thing. Just because my conscience lets me get away with something doesn’t mean it’s right. Every person around the world has been hard-wired to know what is right and what’s wrong. The trick is to fill our minds and hearts with God’s truth so that we “echo his yes and no.” What happens when we refuse to do what we should? Romans 28-32 tells us very plainly that when our futile minds and foolish hearts are so darkened that we don’t bother with God, He stops bothering with us. We are left alone to struggle through life in our own depravity, and will reap the consequences of whatever we have sown. God loves us while we are still sinners but He doesn’t want us to remain that way.
Facing the truth about ourselves, according to God’s perspective, may not be an easy thing to do, but it the only way we will be set free.