In a small town in America, there was an old barber who was kind and wealthy.
One day, a florist got a haircut. He was about to pay when the old barber said, “It’s free. This is my community service.” The florist was grateful. One hour later, the barber opened his door and saw a thank you card and 12 roses from the florist.
The next day, a baker walked into his barbershop for a haircut. He was about to pay when the old barber said, “It’s free. This is my community service.” The baker was grateful. One hour later, the barber opened his door and found a thank you card and 12 ensaymadas from the baker.
The next day, a Filipino software engineer walked into his barbershop and got a haircut. He was about to pay when the old barber said, “It’s free. This is my community service.” The Filipino software engineer was grateful. One hour later, the barber opened the door to find 12 Filipinos looking for a free haircut.
God is like that old barber. His love is free. You don’t pay for it by being a good boy or girl. Instead, you want to be good out of gratitude. And you tell other Filipinos (and other non-Filipinos) to come and have a free haircut.
This is what evangelism is.
This brings me to the two kinds of religious people in the world: those whose relationship with God is based on law or those whose relationship with God is based on grace.
1. When Your Relationship with God Is Based on Law
These are the religious people who work hard to earn His love. Because of this, the law rules their life. These are people who believe that because of their sins, God is angry at them. For God to love them, they have to follow the law. Sadly, this is common. Many are religious because they believe it will appease an angry God.
If your relationship with God is based on law, it’s a no-win game. Because only two things can happen: If you’re not able to follow the law, the result is self-pity. But if you’re able to follow the law, the result is self-righteousness. This leads to being judgmental towards others. (“How can they not follow the law? It’s so easy. I did it!”)
The Worst Sin in the World
Question: What is the worst sin in the world?
Read Saul’s story: “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
Saul was a very bad boy. If you’re a bad boy, and you know you’re a bad boy, it’s not too bad. Because admitting you have a problem is solving 50 percent of the problem.
But Saul was adamant that he was good. Why was Saul doing this? Spiritual pride. I believe spiritual pride is the worst sin of all. Why? Because you’re rejecting God’s love by telling Him that you don’t need it.
Saul didn’t think he was a bad boy. In fact, he thought he was doing the will of God. Here’s what I realized: Some of the biggest crimes in this world are caused by people who think they’re doing the will of God. If you look through history, you’ll see how religions and violence go together. Creeds and cruelty go together. Faith and force go together. Because of the sin of spiritual pride.
Second, when you’re spiritually proud, you’ll persecute.
You don’t have to look at history to see this happening. Just look at your own backyard. Look at your own family, or your own office, or your own neighborhood, or your church, or your prayer group. Who can be the most difficult people in the group? Who can be the most judgmental, arrogant, self- righteous people? Answer: Religious people.
Paul describes his spiritual pride: “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14). He also said, “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:4-6).
I compare a spiritually proud person to a woman who goes to the doctor and says, “Doc, it hurts everywhere,” as she touches different parts of her body with her finger. “My arm hurts, my neck hurts, my shoulders hurt, my head hurts.” After the tests, the doctor says, “Do you know why everything you touch hurts? Because your finger is broken.”
A spiritually proud person likes pointing to what’s broken with other people, not realizing that he is the one who is broken.
By nature, people whose relationship with God is based on the law are zealous, and they eventually become leaders of a church, community, or organization. Quickly, the group morphs from a community of love to a community of laws. From a community of compassion to a community of condemnation. From a community of gentleness to a community of judgments. Norms become more important than people. If you can’t follow the norms, you’re condemned. You’re ostracized. Ultimately, you’re kicked out.
But Jesus built a different community. A community of grace. He welcomed the worst sinners — prostitutes, drunkards, and tax collectors. This is the irony of Jesus. He befriended the prostitute with seven demons, the adultress with five husbands, and the chief tax collector who cheated his fellow Israelites — but he condemned the religious leaders of his time, the Pharisees and Sadducees. Because of their spiritual pride.
One day, a prostitute went to church. But there, everyone looked at her in such a mean way, she finally left. She sat under a tree outside the church and started to cry. She said, “Lord, the people in church don’t want me to go in.” That’s when she heard God tell her, “That’s OK, my daughter. I myself have been trying to get into that church for many years now, but they wouldn’t let me in either.”
We in the Light of Jesus have decided to let Jesus and the prostitute in. And the mistresses, adulterers, practicing homosexuals — anyone.
And then there’s a second kind of religious person…
2. When Your Relationship with God Is Based on Grace
He is someone who believes that before he does anything good and despite his sins, God already accepts him, forgives him, and loves him. He knows it’s God’s unstoppable love that will ultimately change him.
The result? Humility. Gratitude. Compassion. Kindness.
Because if you know you’re accepted by grace, then you’ll also accept others by grace too.
That is what happened on the road to Damascus. God woke up Saul from his spiritual pride.
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. (Acts 9:3-5)
On that fateful day, Saul experienced God’s unconditional, unstoppable love. How unstoppable? He realized that God will not stop loving you until He totally fixes your brokenness.
Years after his conversion, Paul said, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT). The man of the law became the man of grace.
On the road to Damascus, Saul became Paul. Why? Because Saul met Jesus. Saul met grace.
*This excerpt is taken from Join The Feast by Bo Sanchez.
**Featured image (c) Breno Machado via www.Unsplashed.com.
“The church is a field hospital after the battle.” – Pope Francis
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Warning: Some of the things shared in this book may make you feel uncomfortable about your relationship with God. So get ready to be disturbed, challenged, and inspired.
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