This month we will conclude our discussion of how to teach our children to love the sinner but hate the sin without having a condemning attitude toward the worldly person. Here is the link to the first four articles in this series.
Last month we began looking into the book of Jude for direction concerning how we as parents are to interact with those who are worldly around us. This is not only important in our lives but also in our children’s because our children will model what we do. If we don’t want them to have worldly friends then we won’t be able to have them either. So how does Jude teach us to be in the world, be around the worldly, and yet not led away from our Lord? There are several things that are key, and we will break up the verses in Jude to discuss them.
First, we read that we must be in prayer. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost” (Jude 20). We are to be in serious prayer as we encounter the worldly. We have already seen how the relationship isn’t to be a friendship. Prayer is first because we recognize the frailty of our ability to protect ourselves: therefore, we cry out for the Lord’s strength and protection. We need to be aware of the danger we are in if we are trying to restore or win a worldly man.
In Jude 21a, he is telling us to “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” We keep ourselves in the love of God by obeying Him. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). To know His commandments, we must be in the Word. Every family member should be individually reading his Bible every morning and then come together as a family to read every evening. As we are in the Word, we learn His Word, it comes to mind through the day to direct us, and then we must choose to obey it.
In Jude 21b we now are told the secret of not condemning those who are worldly but whom we would be called to exhort. Look at this phrase with me, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” As we live our lives in Christ, serving Him every day, we look toward His mercy. We are to be constantly aware of our failures, and how we need, but don’t deserve, God’s mercy. When we remind ourselves of how pitiful we are before the Lord Jesus, we see that we have no room to condemn anyone else.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Here was God’s Apostle to the Gentiles describing himself as the greatest sinner of all. He wasn’t excusing sin in his life by way of grace, but he saw how far short he fell and was constantly aware of his wicked past.
“For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Paul is demonstrating to us the secret Jude shared in how we reach the worldly, protect ourselves, and not judge them at the same time.
As we remind ourselves of our past, we are all the more grateful for God’s mercy and grace, desiring not to return to our previous way of life again. Those memories also stir in us compassion for others still trapped in sin and or worldliness. “And of some have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 22). I’m often moved to compassion for others when the phrase comes to mind, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.” Every one of us is capable of extreme worldliness and sin. Therefore who are we to judge another? Each will have a judge, and that is the Lord Jesus. Until then, we do all we can to reach and help them.
In Jude 23 we now have the key to protect ourselves from falling into worldliness and sin, “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” First we observe in this verse, that the goal of our interactions with the worldly is to bring them to repentance. Next the Holy Spirit via Jude is telling us that we must hate what has trapped others. The Greek word “hate” means just that. We are to so utterly detest what ensnared the worldly that we don’t want to get close to it. It isn’t enough that we dislike worldly activities. We must hate them and teach our children to hate those things as well.
One example of something I despise is the TV. Many families are ensnared by the trap of loving to be entertained by it and are thus influenced by it. The only way to protect my children from that trap is to teach my family to hate the TV. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Psalms 101:3). I don’t condemn the families caught in the trap. My heart aches for them because they are addicted to the TV (beast). So many families are being infected, and they can’t break free from the worst worldly friend their children (and parents for that matter) can have—the TV!!! Therefore, I am teaching my family a disdain for TV by pointing out to them the wickedness found therein, the time that they waste, and the outcomes in the lives of families who are ensnared by it.
Since last month’s Corner I have received a few e-mails that asked how what I have shared in this series is applied when the worldly “friend” is actually a worldly relative. The danger is just as real with extended family as it is with other friends. As a matter of fact, the more your child enjoys the worldly relatives, the greater the potential harm. What do you do when you don’t want to hurt or offend your relatives, but you feel the need to set boundaries? Ask yourself, “Am I willing to sacrifice my child for the sake of relationships with my extended family?” Considering we are commanded to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we must choose to do what we should to follow the Lord Jesus. Therefore it will require some courage to take the stands with relatives that we might be forced to make if we want to keep our children’s hearts.
I had finished writing this article when I met a sixty-year-old man whose life story was the perfect but sad conclusion to this series. While I was waiting for him to complete some paperwork that I needed, I asked him where he would be in a million years. He said he would be dirt. I countered him by saying that certainly his body would be dirt, but where would he be?
Discerning where the conversation was going, he briefly described his childhood. He was raised by very conservative, Christian parents who went to church three times a week and read the Bible together every night after dinner. His folks didn’t drink or smoke, but he decided he wanted to do those things. Therefore, he hasn’t touched a Bible in many decades and has no interest in spiritual things. My heart was grieving for him and his parents when I summed it up like this. “So it is a personal preference—along the lines of your parents like vanilla but you like chocolate?” He smiled at me and said, “Exactly!”
I asked him what had happened when it sounded like he had the perfect Christian home? Did he have friends who led him the wrong way? He looked at me with an expression that said, “Now you got it.” And then verbally affirmed, “Exactly!” With a heavy heart I left him and wondered how parents could ever think that it wouldn’t matter if their children had worldly friends.
What about you? Have you learned to love the sinner by not condemning him but hating his sin? Are you teaching your children to do the same? Is your goal in a relationship with a worldly person to help him to a spiritual walk with the Lord Jesus? Do your children have worldly friends? There is much at stake in your answers to these questions—the spiritual future of your children. May I encourage you to evaluate your life and your example and make sure it is what the Lord Jesus would want it to be.