8-11It's true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say. It's obvious, isn't it, that the law code isn't primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, life, sex, truth, whatever! They are contemptuous of this great Message I've been put in charge of by this great God.
(I Timothy 1:8-11)
In the opening verse of our passage this morning, the writer is recalling the importance of tempering our words, being aware of our audience, and of being sensitive to the timing of our message. The pastor of our church spoke about Christmas yesterday, as I am sure a good many pastors across the Christian churches did. It is the holiday season, is it not? There were a few things that he said that really spoke volumes. If you'll give me a moment, I will share just a couple of them:
- Salvation is the POINT of Christmas, not just PART of Christmas.
- The only qualification for being called of God is to be a sinner - he never called the righteous, only those in need of a savior.
- We are called to befriend sinners - not to be involved in their sin, but to be friends with sinners. The purpose is to bring love, mercy and grace into their lives.
Okay, so that was the crux of the message in a nutshell. I am not going to elaborate on them, because they each stand as pretty plain messages in and of themselves. I would like to explore a little bit what it means to befriend sinners.
In our passage today, Paul lays out the importance of having a message that needs to be heard. He describes it as moral guidance and counsel. He goes so far as to say that they NEED to be given. Yet, not everyone is in the place of receiving such a message. That was the point of the pastor's statement that believers need to befriend sinners - it is the only way they may hear the message of salvation.
Moral guidance and counsel are not always spoken words. A modeled life is actually of more importance than the words we speak. There is nothing more disgraceful to the gospel message than a person who speaks about love, grace and mercy, but has no evidence of these in their lives. Jesus calls us to be examples of his work in us. In other words, we are to model to the world what he has accomplished in us by first loving us, extending his grace to us, and repeatedly bringing mercy into our lives.
The sinner knows nothing about the love of God, but can understand the loving actions of a brother or sister who comes alongside to walk with them during a time when they receive a serious diagnosis about their health. There is understanding that comes about the amazing grace of God when we should have been hurt by something someone did or said, but we press in deeper into the relationship despite the hurt. The eyes of a spiritually blind man can be opened wide to understanding grace as they take in the repeated times of forgiveness for the repeated times of failure in their lives.
Sinners need saints - not to preach the message - but to live the message. The plan God had from the beginning was for each of us to be living examples of his love - displaying to each other the wonder of a loving, holy, and caring God. We cannot underestimate the value of being an example of moral guidance and wise counsel - actions truly do speak more than a thousand words!
You are invited today into "being" the message this holiday season. Allow God to work out his message of salvation in your life - then begin to share that message through the actions of your heart this season. You may be amazed at what God can do through you!