How Do You Stand?

How Do You Stand?

We are living in polarized times when we are often pressured to “take a stand” on various hot-button issues. While our positions matter, this blog post explores the importance of maintaining a Jesus-like posture. If we are to embody the posture of Jesus, we will need to learn how to take a stand on love.

One of the questions I get asked a lot as a pastor is: “Where do you stand?”

People often ask me what I think about something to see if what I think matches what they think. And it is no secret that we are living in increasingly polarized times where people have incredibly strong opinions on a whole variety of hot button topics. There seem to be conversational landmines everywhere.

  • Where do you stand on politics? Are you conservative or progressive?
  • Where do you stand on the vaccine, mask-wearing, and social distancing?
  • Where do you stand on human sexuality, on poverty alleviation, and racism?
  • Pastor, where do you stand on [fill in the blank]?

It’s not that having convictions is unimportant. Positions matter. I often tell our church that “we want our positions to be biblically faithful and Jesus-centered.” And yes, I’m aware that there will be considerable debate among us as to what is biblically faithful and Jesus-centered. Nevertheless, that’s the goal.

But even then — even if all of our positions were biblically faithful and Jesus-centered — having the right positions isn’t enough. And here’s why…

You can have the right position, but the wrong posture.

You can have the right position on whatever the topic or issue, but be completely lacking the posture of Jesus. And, unfortunately, this is truly endemic within the American church. For far too long, Christians have prioritized having right positions while betraying the posture of Jesus in how they treat and interact with others.

You can have the right position, but the wrong posture.

I’m convinced this is largely why Christians have such a poor reputation within our broader culture. Far from being known for a love that looks like Jesus, Christians are known for being judgmental, hypocritical, and self-righteous. Standing on certainty or the right positions, we’ve forgotten how to hold our positions with love.  

Instead of taking our stand on love, we’ve taken our stand on being right.

If you go on Amazon, there is a considerably large market of posture correctors. You can buy a table that tilts you upside down to take away back pain and lengthen your spine. You can buy a strap system that pulls your shoulders back and puts your spine into alignment. They even sell a device that you can stick on the back of your neck and will quietly beep every time you start to slouch in your chair.  

I submit that the American church needs a posture corrector.

Our positions matter. But it’s not enough to have the right positions. Our posture matters too. In fact, our posture always needs to be primary because if our posture is off, we can’t expect people to care about our positions.  I’m not saying we need to choose between these two, there certainly is a way to embody the posture and positions of Jesus.But I am saying that people will resist listening to our convictions when our presence is off.  

What is the posture of Jesus?

If the American church is in need of some posture correction as I’m suggesting, the question most worthy of time and our attention becomes: What is the posture of Jesus? If our posture is to match Jesus’ posture, we need to have a clear vision of that posture.  In short, How did Jesus stand and how do you stand?

To get at this I want to zoom in on one aspect of posture — namely, how God  relates to us when we are making bad choices, engaging in sin, or living a “lifestyle” with which God disagrees?

When sin first shows up

The first time sin enters God’s created world is in Genesis 3 when Adam & Eve eat from the tree God had explicitly instructed them not to eat from. The result of their sinful action was the fracturing of God’s good creation. Four primary fractures occurred: (1) relationship with God; (2) relationship with oneself; (3) relationship with others; and (4) relationship with creation. The world went from being very good to very broken. 

What is often missed is how God relates to Adam & Eve right after they sin. 

I often encounter folks who think that when they sin God’s primary posture toward them is one of anger and outrage. It’s as if God is a cosmic Hulk ready to go ape on them. The problem is that this is not how the story goes.

Genesis 3:8-9 - Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

The first thing we see God doing after they sin is searching for them so that God can walk with them during the cool of the day. Far from hulking out on them, God wants to be near them. It is not God who hides from Adam & Eve but the other way around. We are the ones who run away and go into hiding. But God continually chases after us with grace-filled forgiveness.

We see this same posture of God throughout the Scriptures.

God continually chases after us with grace-filled forgiveness.

The story of Israel is the story of God continually bending down to meet Israel right where they are — not where they should be — but right in the middle of their sinfulness — and patiently bearing with them relationally. Not only does God stoop to meet Israel where they are, but in so doing God temporarily tolerates and even accommodates Israel’s sin. At numerous points God makes concessions that go against God’s will (divorce, polygamy, the request to have a king, etc).

At no point does Israel reach sinless perfection. There was never a moment where God wasn’t dealing with impure and imperfect people. And yet God’s love for them was not conditioned upon their moral purity, but rather, was based on God’s perfect and loving character.

The same is true for us.

Last I checked, none of us are perfect. Which means that even at this very moment God is temporarily tolerating and even accommodating the less than perfect parts of us. God patiently meets us where we are to take us where we can’t get on our own.

And if this is how God relates to us, then this is how we are to relate to others. Our love for others shouldn’t be predicated upon a person’s choices, sinfulness, or lifestyle. Our love is about who we are, not about the other person.

Paul says that we are to “do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16:14).

Love is to be our default posture.

There should never be a time when our posture shouldn’t be characterized by love. No ifs. No buts. No exceptions. It doesn’t matter a person's race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, age or ability – every single person is created in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully made, and someone for whom Jesus died. And the primary mark of our discipleship to Jesus is to love each and every person like Jesus.

If we are going to take a stand, we must take a stand on love. We must learn to front love in our relationships with others just as God fronts love with us.

The way that Jesus loved

So how exactly did Jesus love people? And more specifically, how did Jesus relate to those who were caught up in sin or making poor choices?

In our Discipleship Groups here at Crosspoint, we spend a lot of time on this. One of the basic insights we explore is that Jesus loved people by calibrating (not balancing) grace and truth.

John 1:17 - For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus was full of both grace and truth. At no moment was Jesus lacking either grace or truth—which meant that Jesus was free to calibrate the right amount of each in each interaction as a way of loving the person in front of Him.

While each situation requires a different calibration, you will notice some patterns or themes when you read through the gospels.

  • When interacting with religious outsiders, Jesus generally calibrates a high degree of grace with less truth. This is not because Jesus lacked truth. This is because these individuals needed to experience grace as a precursor to the truth. After all, Paul tells us it is “the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance” (Rom. 2:4).
  • When interacting with religious insiders, Jesus generally calibrates a high degree of truth with less grace. This is not because Jesus lacked grace. This is because truth was the only way to lovingly wake the self-righteous up to God’s heart and the way of the kingdom. 

We see this calibration in many places:

  • When Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector, to become a disciple (Matt. 9), Jesus moves toward Matthew and his friend with an incredibly high degree of grace. He eats with them, a social sign of intimate friendship. Perhaps not surprisingly, this draws significant criticism from the religious leaders. Jesus responds to the religious leaders with a high degree of truth, challenging them to learn how to embody the mercy that the prophet Hosea described.
  • When a woman is caught in adultery and brought to Jesus to be stoned (Jn. 8), Jesus responds to her accusers with a high degree of challenge. While we will never know what Jesus wrote when he bent down to draw in the sand, we do know that he was holding up a mirror for the religious leaders to reckon with their own sinfulness. He then moves toward the disgraced woman with an incredible amount of grace (“I do not condemn you”) without setting aside the truth (“Go and sin no more”).
  • When a Canaanite woman approached Jesus begging for help on behalf of her daughter (Matt. 15), Jesus responds with unusual callousness. On the surface, it appears that Jesus is being rude and dismissive. However, a closer reading reveals that Jesus was acting rudely as a way of showing his disciples the ethnic prejudice that existed in their hearts towards this foreign woman. Jesus is calibrating truth toward his disciples so they can align their hearts with the kingdom. At the same time, Jesus is giving this beloved woman a public faith test that he knows she will pass. His grace-filled posture is captured when Jesus affirms her faith and heals her daughter.

Throughout the gospels we see Jesus’ ruthless commitment to loving people no matter what. Jesus loves Peter when Peter disowns him three times in a row. Jesus loves Judas even while being betrayed. Jesus loves the guards who arrest him and those crucifying him. And it is this same Jesus-like love that we are called to practice and embody in our own lives.

If we, as followers of Jesus, are going to learn to love like Jesus then we must stand on love above all else by calibrating grace & truth in full dependency upon the Holy Spirit.

Two passages to memorize:

Consider memorizing the following passages of Scripture as a way of pursuing a deeper formation toward love. 

1 John 3:16 - This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

John 13:34-35 - “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Next Steps:

  • Receive God’s grace & love
    Create some space to be with God. As you sit in God’s presence, consider all the ways you mess up and fall short. Then consider that God still loves you perfectly and unconditionally. Spend a few minutes receiving God’s grace & love knowing that God always moves toward you, even in your worst moments.
  • Extend grace & love to another
    Identify someone in your life that you have a hard time loving—perhaps someone you think is sinning or who is making choices you don’t like. Now, in light of the way God relates to you in your sin as revealed in Jesus, prayerfully consider what it might look like to move toward them with Christ-like love.

Mac McCarthy

Lead Pastor
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