How to love a sinner
We usually think of Christmas as a time of joy and gifts and lights. But one Christmas for me, several lifetimes ago, was more about scarcity and loneliness and regret. And yet that Christmas, probably more than any before or since, revealed the powerful love of Jesus that came down one silent night.
I was a divorced nineteen-year-old. Single mom to a toddler. And it was Christmastime. I had broken a commandment or two in the past couple of years, and let’s just say I wasn’t feeling like Mom of the Year. God was already preparing to send me the man who would complete our little family, but I didn’t know that. And I was feeling quite lonely.
Don’t get me wrong: that toddler was my joy. But sometimes being with people who speak in complete sentences is a plus, especially on a too-quiet Christmas morning.
I don’t remember how it came about. I don’t even remember if they brought gifts. But I do know this: early on Christmas Day, my grandparents showed up just in time to celebrate the joy of the morning with my little boy and me.
It wasn’t the first time my grandparents had shown up. And it certainly wouldn’t be the last. But that one act spoke volumes—not so much because they were my grandparents, but because they were leaders of the church, the pastor and the pianist. If a couple so steeped in God’s word and worship, these leaders of his church, these faithful followers of Jesus, could love me, then maybe so could I.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner,” and I sort of agree with the notion—as long as we’re really clear about how to love that sinner.
The Bible points out who the sinners are. For easy reference, here’s a list: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). Yep. All. And that’s who Jesus loves, who he came to earth for, who he died for, and who we, too, are supposed to love.
Loving a sinner isn’t only an “I’ll pray for you” kind of love or even a drop-some-quarters-in-the-red-bucket love. It’s a love that shows up at a teenage mom’s house with hugs and breakfast on Christmas morning. It’s a love that leaves his throne in heaven for an animal trough on earth. It’s a tell-the-people-how-much-God-loves-them-until-they-kill-you-for-it kind of love.
It’s messy. It’s scary. And it’s beautiful.
That’s the love of Christmas.
And that’s how you love a sinner.
- Who do you know that could use a little extra love right now?
- How could you show up and show them the love of Christmas, the love of Jesus?