Lately I’ve been working very hard to turn off my moral thermometer. You know, that thing within you that raises itself to ungodly levels, makes you see red, and shoots steam out of your ears. It’s that thing that trips in our brains whenever we hear of someone who has lapsed morally. Suddenly we become holier-than-thou, judgmental, and close the door to any opportunity for ministry.

            This is the thing that most Christians who have any years behind them has that reminds them that they are better than the individual who has fallen. It allows us to say witty things like, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s that spot within us that convinces us, “You’re better than they are,” and teaches us to look down our noses in derision.

            Somehow it’s related to our understanding of right and wrong, but then we latch on and determine that anyone who falls on the wrong side of what I see as wrong must be all wrong. When they start looking to me for help, for mercy, for acceptance, I turn them away—closing the door to any further opportunity for ministry in the future. It is the reason that believers have developed the reputation of being unsympathetic, narrow-minded, bigots.

            Since this thermometer helps me determine right from wrong, why would I want to turn it off? Why, indeed. It is because the moral thermometer is not my moral thermostat. In my layman’s understanding of these two devices, one determines what the temperature is to be, the other simply reads the level of the temperature in a given place. Our problem is that we turn on our thermostats and then allow our thermometers to control us (and try to control those around us with our thermometers).

            One of the things that I see happening very often is that the Christian community begins to judge society at large by our own standards. We begin to expect those who know not Christ to be like Him—a feat that Jesus himself never attempted, nor did He expect it. He expected the world to act like the world, He expected His disciples to act like Him. Do we see the difference? Follower of Jesus, act like Jesus; non-follower of Jesus, act like the world. Why is it, then, that we as the church refuse to minister to someone who is acting like the world?

Luke 19

 1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”  8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”  9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” 

            How are we supposed to be about the work of Kingdom building, when we turn away those who want our help because they have broken our mold of decorum? How indeed can we become the instrument of grace that God wants to use (we share the mercy we found in Christ with those who need His love) when we have chosen to mete out judgment that isn’t even ours to give?

            Craig Groeschel, pastor of and author, confesses in Confessions of a Pastor that he doesn’t like many Christians for the kinds of things they fight over: “You’re reading the wrong version of the Bible. Your church has the wrong worship style. You don’t teach enough from the Old Testament. . .  Your church isn’t evangelistic enough. You’re too evangelistic. . .” He follows this up with a list of things that happen when Christians go outside the church: “All R-rated movies are off-limits. If you listen to secular music, you’re of the devil. Don’t get a tattoo. Don’t watch Teletubbies. Don’t go to Disney World.” His conclusion: Stop judging the world while you have sin in your life. Instead, work on changing into who God wants you to be, and love the world.

            This does not mean that we are to embrace or even condone the behavior in the world with which we disagree. But it does mean that we sometimes have to look past the sin and see the sinner. God hates sin, so do I. Most of all I hate my own sin.

            When the homosexual comes to me, scarred by his sin and scared of what might become of him because of that sinful lifestyle, I must love him without accepting his sin. In order to love him I should point out his sin as sin, but do so without venom in my manner.

            When the pregnant teen comes, broken because of bad choices, I must minister to her in the best way I can. I don’t need to judge her for her past actions. She’s probably doing enough of that already. I must instead give good counsel, based on the Scripture, and continue to love her regardless of what good or bad decisions she has made or will make.

            So I am working hard to turn off that thing in me which screams to point fingers, burns red in my eyes and shows Benjie and not Jesus to a world that needs Jesus and not Benjie. I want to open doors for ministry and Kingdom building, not close them.

How about you?