Looking down on a sinner never brought him/her to salvation. So glad Jesus came down here, sat with us in our messy sin and showed us who we were to the Father and how the Father sees us. So glad He invited me in all my sin to His table, into His home, into His family. Instead of looking down on me, this sinner, He came alongside me, was patient with me ’til I reached out my hand and He pulled me into Salvation .
It took me a long time, though, to extend that kind of love to others. It took loving someone more than I love myself. It took mothering a prodigal – to have a heart for the lost.
To not throw them out, lock the door and hide the key.
“”Really? What! You will keep me? You do not drive me forth? A convict! You call me sir! You do not address me as thou? `Get out of here, you dog!’ is what people always say to me. I felt sure that you would expel me, so I told you at once who I am,'” said Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable. Turned away from every door – because no one wanted to associate with someone with a sinner – a convicted sinner.
. . . . . “‘Monsieur le Cure,’ said the man, ‘you are good; you do not despise me. You receive me into your house. You light your candles for me. Yet I have not concealed from you whence I come and that I am an unfortunate man.’
The Bishop, who was sitting close to him, gently touched his hand. ‘You could not help telling me who you were. This is not my house; it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except the man who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me you had one which I knew.’
The man opened his eyes in astonishment.
‘Really? You knew what I was called?’
‘Yes,’ replied the Bishop, ‘you are called my brother'” (Victor Hugo, Les Miserable)
No, looking down on a sinner never brought one to salvation. Calling him brother – or maybe calling someone sister, daughter, or son – pulling them like you mean it into the family of the one true God!
Brother/Sister is about investing yourself in real, intentional relationship.
“Your friendship was a miracle-wonder,
love far exceeding anything I’ve known—
or ever hope to know” (2 Samuel 1:26b)
A brotherhood, like the bishop extended Valjean is a relationship work-out – like the Marines:
“The Marine Corps keeps recruits together through boot camp, and then keeps the same group of Marines together through combat training and schools, and then finally once the new Marines hit the fleet, they are all in the same unit, always reinforcing the cohesion, esprit de corps and brotherhood being together. This plays a significant role as warriors go into combat and look to their right and left and actually know the Marine next to them very well. A vital role in developing the One Team One Fight mentality is developing the teamwork and the Marine brotherhood”(Semper Fidelis)
No, looking down on a sinner never brought one to salvation. What kind of mission are you willing to go on to save one brother? Are you willing to jump down in that mud and pull him out? Let his sin-stained feet cross the threshold of home?
And, if he steals your silver candlesticks, and the police drag him before you – will you, like the bishop not only say the candlesticks were a gift – and tell him he forgot the silver forks and knives – realizing love in the face of sin can change a man’s destiny:
“‘Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.’
Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:—
‘Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.'”(Les Miserable)
The bishop saw in Valjean what God saw in him – and enabling Valjean to see something more than the sin of themselves- a glimmer of what God saw in him.
No, looking down on a sinner never brought one to salvation: Seeing the sinner as God sees him, loving the sinner as God loves him, not giving up on Him like God’s not giving up on him – that’s what brings a sinner to salvation.
There’s a huge mission field out there – right in our back yards – of young men and women (note: – 13, not the age of 25 is when a boy becomes man and is responsible for his soul) – who need to be loved like the Bishop loved Valjean.
“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (Romans 5:6-8)
That’s what Christ’s coming is all about – that’s the greatest gift of all – the Son of God come down to call us brother or sister, give us Salvation and bring us home with Him.