Grace to the Hesitant

The book of Jude warns of many things but wraps up with one of my all-time favorite scripture verses reassuring me that Jesus is able to keep me through this fleeting, albeit sometimes challenging life and present me to God without sin. When all is said and done, Christ utterly and eternally triumphs, inviting me to do the same alongside Him. Now that is reason for rejoicing, indeed!

However, another couple of verses from this same author have been pricking my conscience lately. It is a call to show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. To be gracious toward those who hesitate in believing the reality of this God-story that, in many ways, does seem too good to be true. Even though it is.

Verses 22 and 23 encourage believers in Christ with the following directive:
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (NLT)

The Message by Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way:
Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin.

There are many folks who “hesitate in the faith,” and I have joined them far more times than I care to admit. Each of us must journey the path to God for himself, and each of us has struggles uniquely his own. Some obstacles seem glaringly obvious, while others are much more cunning in their masquerade to pull us from the truth that is found in God’s  Word.

A plethora of lies tempt us to leave the path of salvation and walk in ways that dishonor our Savior, and many of us still struggle with sins, neglecting the power given us to overcome our former way of living. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know this new nature in Jesus is free for the taking, yet sometimes difficult to grasp. And even harder to hold onto.

What do we do when we encounter fellow-Christians whose spiritual fruit appears less than appealing? The world would tell us not to judge, that tolerance is the only thing demanded of us. Others would say to judge the person only by their seeming less-than-ripe or rotting spiritual fruit, never mind if their heart is wavering back and forth seeking firm footing on which to stand. But Jude points us to a better way as he encourages us to show mercy while exerting effort to stop the person from sinning any longer.

We are encouraged to be patient with folks who are faltering as they hesitantly test the waters of faith. I daresay we’ve all had our own shortcomings of belief ourselves, which is a good reminder to be gentle and kind in our dealings with others. We are not to ignore or overlook the sin that is obviously a part of their lives, but rather, we are to pursue those who are wandering, tenderly seeking them out instead of writing them off. Welcoming them with open arms and an open heart of acceptance and love, the same as we have received from Jesus.

Hate the evil acts of sin, yes. But always, always love the people who are trapped in them. They are making these unwise choices because they have been tricked, deceived by the enemy of their souls. We would never punish a blind man for stumbling over a rock he did not see, so in the same way, we are called to be gentle in our dealings with those who are still struggling to find light in the darkness. Indeed, may we be ones who introduce them to it.

I pray we follow Jude’s directives and live a life of love as recipients of such undeserved grace at the hand of our Lord. Let kindness rule our hearts as we partner with Christ to lead the way to salvation in His name. May our light shine to illuminate the darkness as we patiently allow the eyes of others to adjust to this gift of God-life for all.

May we tread carefully, navigating the path between the weak and the willful with caution and with great love.

After all, sin is the only thing God hates.

May we follow His lead.



Nothing on Earth Beside

He emptied my hands of my treasured store,

And His covenant love revealed.

There was not a wound in my aching heart
The balm of His breath has not healed.
Oh, tender and true was His discipline sore,

In wisdom that taught and tried,
Till the soul that He sought was trusting in Him,
And nothing on earth beside.
(from Streams in the Desert)

Father, I thank You that You continue to pursue me, coming to my rescue again and again, until I am trusting in You alone. Left unattended and untried, I have proven that I quickly run wild. Banished to my own wants and desires, I become a boastful and selfish mess – not to mention, one that errs continually.

In Your perfect wisdom and love, You pry my hands – often finger by finger – from the idols I have intentionally, and sometimes unwittingly, grasped throughout the years.
The longing for material things – in order to serve You better, of course.
Ministry opportunities that were more to fill a void in my own heart than to honor You.
Idols of self-righteousness as I deemed my own struggles as somehow less than the seemingly glaring trials of others.
Performance-based works to seek Your approval, while failing to realize that I had it all along.
Attitudes and  selfish motives became crafted idols to which I clung as surely as if they were pagan images of stone and wood.
My treasured stores of self-worth and self-promotion –  all became as dust beneath Your feet when Your covenant love was revealed.

Your gentleness continually compels me to be awestruck in Your dealings with me. Occasionally, with indignant, holy anger, You tear the poisonous apple from my hands and fling it far from me. But more often, it is Your kindness that woos my heart, calling me to return to Your side. It is the gentle caress of Your Spirit’s breath to which I find myself responding. It is Your healing touch of love that tugs my heart toward life while opening my eyes to see the death with which I have surrounded myself.

Thank You for Your covenant love, Lord. For caring for me enough to patiently come to my rescue time and again. There has never been a moment when Your faithfulness toward me has wavered. Never a time when Your hand was shortened to save me. Not once did Your compassion wane – even when I played the harlot, casting Your favor behind my back and placing myself at the disposal of other gods.

Please continue to come to me, Father. Pierce my heart with Your truths and enlighten my eyes to see clearly. Do what You must until this soul that You seek is trusting in You… and nothing on earth beside.