Can I Love Sinners Too, Lord? Yes, Permission Granted
- Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Here, Starbuck shows us real-life examples of people who’ve decided to stop playing Twister. She personally knows several women who regularly visit strip clubs to encourage, eat with, and love on the women who work there. They don’t picket the club, standing outside with sandwich boards, harassing the women as they go to and from work. Rather, they befriend the women, reminding them, "God isn’t saying you're a whore. He isn’t saying you’re a home wrecker. He’s not saying you’re forgotten. He’s not saying you’re dirt." These women are concerned about encouraging and ministering – not about making sure everyone can see their left feet planted solidly on the blue circles of "I do not accept your behavior." As Starbuck puts it, once we give up the need to always be so vocal about what we don’t accept, "we’re finally free to land squarely, with all our weight, on crucifix red: 'In Jesus Christ, God welcomes Sinners who have not yet cleaned up their acts, and we do too.'"
It’s a tough line to walk, wanting to reprimand sin but love the sinner. Permission Granted provokes us to dig a little deeper, biblically, and see if God requires us to do both.
Everyone Matters, Everyone is Loved
Starbuck also bravely reminds her readers to love the hateful, oppressive, lemon-faced people of this world too, not just the strippers and sinners. It can be easy to condemn and hate those who hate – but that’s not Jesus's way. Jesus didn’t just eat with prostitutes and poor people. He also ate with Pharisees and tax collectors.
Starbuck helps to bring the emotionally detached demographic "tax collectors" into a gritty reality. These people worked for the government, an oppressive Roman government which held the Jews under an iron fist. Tax collectors extorted more money than citizens actually owed in order to turn personal profit, no matter how weak or poor people were. As Starbuck puts it, "[the tax collector] was more like the modern day human-trafficker who used coercive power to profit from the labor of others." But Jesus welcomed these people too. Jesus ate with Zacchaeus. Jesus called Levi to be an apostle. If we’re going to mirror Jesus’s love, she writes, we truly must do it with an open hand – even to oppressors and the scum of the earth.
God is For Us
The note that rings throughout this book, and specifically in the final chapters, is that God is for us. Of course God is holy, perfect, and righteous. Of course we screw up and behave in ways God would rather not have us behave. Starbuck's words and stories make it painfully clear that we Christians have the tendency to live life as though God is for some people, but not for others. Or perhaps God is only for us if we are walking the straight and narrow – but he’s no longer for us if we deviate or go through seasons of sin, doubt, and weakness. But are we over-complicating the issue?
Yes, the author argues. Biblically, it’s crystal clear to see that God is love – he even sent his son to die for us while we were still sinners. God is on our side, loving us, desiring that we succeed and live in his will. Starbuck argues that Christians have been far too lacking (and, again, fearful) in grasping hold of this reality and displaying it to a lost and broken world.
After all, "go and sin no more" was the last thing Jesus said to the sinful woman the mob threw at his feet. His first step was to protect her, defend her, and display mercy. His question, "Who among you is without sin?" could have been answered “I am” by Jesus himself. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," Jesus offered; but though he was without sin, he refused to throw a stone. Then, after saving this woman’s life and earning her trust, he reminded her of what she already knew to be true: What you have done is sin. I do not condemn you. Go and be free of those shackles – live in the Truth instead.
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