5 Ways to Love People in the Midst of Their Sin and Frailty
In our humanness we don’t usually have a problem loving people when they are good and kind or strong and beautiful. We struggle to love when people are at their worst and weakest. Yet, this is the kind of love that God demonstrates toward us.
Recently I was reading about Psalm 103 in a book called Learning to Love the Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey. In this particular chapter Godfrey mentions that this psalm speaks about God’s love for believers in the midst of their sinfulness and frailty. It struck me that this love is quite comprehensive, since humans are constantly riddled with sin and frailty. No wonder the psalmist focuses on these categories.
With our Father in heaven setting the standard of love for his children to follow, this kind of love is a daunting task. How are we to love those around us in the midst of their sin and frailty?
Does prayer ever seem like a cop-out because it’s what people say when they don’t really want to get involved with a situation or know what to do? Sometimes prayer can be like a tagline we use to wrap up a difficult conversation when we don’t know what else to say. Yet, this isn’t the correct understanding of prayer. The Bible teaches that prayer is powerful and effective (see, for example, Mark 11:24; Luke 18:1-8).
Calling upon the help of our all-powerful Heavenly Father should never be a polite cop-out. Prayer is a tool of spiritual warfare that takes great effort, and God has promised that he listens to, cares about, and answers his people’s prayers. He uses prayer to accomplish his plan. Prayer is one way we love those who are in the midst of sin and frailty. We get on our knees, and we pray.
When people suffer, they don’t always need more information. Sometimes they need someone to share with them in the pain or struggle. They need a sympathetic ear and heart. As Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” We must learn to be people who can weep with each other openly and shamelessly. The world tells us to put our best face forward—to be independently confident and strong. Yet, this is just another lie and a heavy burden that can lead to loneliness and despair.
Not one of us is strong on our own. If we think we are, there will come a time when we realize we don’t have it all together, like we think we did. Sin and frailty are our lot in this life, and so we must learn to weep with those who are weeping. We must not push them aside or avoid the conversation. As family—members of the body of Christ—we must weep together.
3. Be patient.
The world loves a quick fix, a fast meal, two-day shipping and short lines (if any). And yet, growth and healing—both spiritual and physical—are often slow processes. We understand that a newborn will not be running up the stairs the next day, and yet we often expect people dealing with sin to simply “snap out of it.”
Those struggling against sin, addictions, depression, and other hardships may have long recoveries. Quick fixes are not inevitable, but what is most common is slow growth and gradual renewal. The Holy Spirit works on his own timetable, and we must be patient, working with and continuing to patiently be there for struggling brothers and sisters (Eph. 4:1-2).
Words of encouragement can be a very powerful sustenance for those who are suffering. Whether it is a conversation or a note, knowing that we are remembered is a wonderful and strengthening gift. God is a God of encouragement and life, and his Word is encouragement that gives hope (Rom. 15:4-5).
The words of believers are to be words that lift up and encourage. Words are far from empty but rather have power to build up and tear down. Loving those who are struggling under the burden of sin, physical pain, or hard situations means using our words with wisdom and for healing (Prov. 12:25; 25:11).
5. See them as heavenly beings.
The world is dark and dreary and hopeless. It is harsh and judgmental and pessimistic. In contrast to this world, God’s people have a glorious hope of another world. While we struggle here on earth, what is here for us now is not all there will be for those who are beloved by God. We are creatures destined for a glorious eternity with renewed bodies, minds, and souls. We are glorious beings in the making.
We are incomplete at present, yet, by God’s Spirit the work of refashioning us into the image of Christ has already begun. We must not lose heart at the struggles we have in this flesh but instead see each other as aliens here on earth already being transformed into holy beings who will be glorified upon Christ’s return. We are brothers and sisters on a journey to a New Heavens and a New Earth and looking forward to new bodies free of sin, pain, and sorrow. As the apostle Peter reminds us,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1: 3-4)
This is our inheritance as children of God. Let us love our suffering brothers and sisters, seeing them as fellow pilgrims to this glorious destination and reality.
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