Contagious!
Rarely when we hear the word contagious is it seen as positive. Speaking from personal experience, if a coworker walks into the office with a sickly look on their face or coughing up a lung, I am quick to ask, “are you contagious?!”…followed by, “stay away from me.”  The same thing can often be said of Christians…if we can effectively deliver a message of faith, love, hope and forgiveness, then we can infect others so much so that they want to know what it feels like. However, there’s another side of the story in which those who don’t go to church see Christians as judgmental, hypocritical and downright hateful…so much so, that non-Christians will say, “stay away from me.” 

I grew up in a Christian family. We went to Sunday School and Big Church every Sunday, followed by other activities throughout the week. I was my Youth Group’s president and spent a couple of years involved in a ministry called “Youth Empowered by the Savior (aka YES!).” I was one of God’s children. Unfortunately, my senior year in high school, the guy I was dating came home after a semester away in college to break up with me. To say I was devastated is a complete understatement, but the part that really hurt was that he told me we needed to break up because I was too much of a temptation (his decision came directly after attending a college ministry workshop that I later referred to as “the cult”). It was as if he said “get away from me.”

I closed that chapter of my life with him and turned my back on the church for many years following that event – I couldn’t understand how I was a temptation…or rather how I could be judged so severely. I never wanted to feel that pain again so I completely checked out. Sure, I attended church services with my parents, but it wasn’t the same. 
Without Sin RS
I can imagine that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. Not that I would change my current circumstances, but as Christians we have two choices when it comes to how we treat people who may have gone off track (in particular Christians who may go off track – that’s right…Christians are far from perfect…and for the sake of argument, let’s say that I was in fact a temptation – maybe I too had fallen off track). 
  • We can choose to have an attitude that those who fall off course earned whatever consequences they receive – “they had it coming to them.” We can allow people to fall until they hit rock bottom…and then say that they deserved it. I’m not sure this is a true reflection of God’s love, hope and forgiveness. 
  • OR, we can surround those individuals with love, care and nurture…we can infect them with forgiveness. We can be a true reflection of God’s heart.
I’m reminded of the story of Jesus and the adulterer in John 8:3-5 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

Recognizing that these men were trying to trap him, Jesus bends down and starts writing in the sand. It doesn’t specifically state what he’s writing (for all we know, he was doodling…maybe trying to buy some time), but I’d like to believe that he was writing words – words to describe their sins: GREED, LUST, PRIDE, JEALOUSY, ENVY, ADULTERY, HATE, GOSSIP, SLANDER…

He then gets up and says to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The men are silent…one by one, they disappear. Jesus then tells the young woman, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

You see, only Jesus was in any position to condemn this woman for her sins, and even he does not condemn her. It was his GRACE that forgave her. Yet, we must remember that we can not live by GRACE alone, but also in truth…once we know we are doing wrong, we can’t keep doing wrong (at least not out of spite).  

So, if I go back to my own experience of feeling inappropriately judged…I know that I am not the only one who has had such an experience. How do we change this perception of the church…of Christianity…of religion in general so that we can truly infect others with his word?  Even better….how can we become so contagious in our love, hope and forgiveness that others want to know HIM. Here’s a few ideas:
  • Remember where we’ve come from…remember our own shortcomings. It’s pretty hard to judge others when your past is staring right back at you. Not to suggest that you don’t forgive yourself, but remembering is a powerful tool. 
  • Learn to be grace-providing people…people who accept and love others regardless of what’s going on in their life. Think twice before drawing that line (the line where you refuse to drop the rock – the line where you start making wrongful judgments). Be the type of person that celebrates moments worth celebrating but is also “by your side” when thinks fall apart…when no one else is willing to stick around. 
  • Find people who need GRACE and TRUTH and extend it to them. 
With all of that said, I made a commitment long ago that I would not be the type of person that would judge others. I can not and will not be throwing any stones. I don’t want to be seen as unforgiving, hateful, hypocritical, etc, but I do hope my love is CONTAGIOUS!

Disclosure: the above message was adapted from my church’s sermon last weekend. To listen to the original message, click HERE (Contagious: An Outbreak of Grace and Truth).
50 COMMENTS

    I love reading these. You are such an amazing writer. Thanks for sharing. Great scripture & a snapshot too.

    great post – I pray that I am “contagious” in a good way too :)

    Monday is the perfect day to become contagious. Especially fresh after church or communion with others that serve the Lord in a loving way.

    Excellent post and a lovely capture.

    I think that you are right. We have ALL been there, on both sides. Thank you for sharing your heart, Ashley.

    May what we say and do be so contagious that others can’t help but follow us right to HIM!

    Following us anywhere else will lead to much disappointment, more hurt and disillusion of what love really is!

    Keep leading them TO HIM and HIM alone! All else is sinking sand!

    I shared the same verse today in my post :-D

    What a lovely devotional. Thank you for sharing your heart and God’s word. You’re doing wonderful things with your blog, and I’m learning so much!

    Your writing reminds me of a friend of mine that has two books published. Here is her link. She is part of my crit group. I really can’t tell you how excited I am to see where God is going to be taking you. I see so much potential for your future and know He has great things for you. :O)

    http://www.splashesofserenity.com/

    Love these posts you do! You are an amazing women and a true inspiration for sure! :)

    I agree with SArah. You are a very gifted writer and it is clear that God is using your passion for him to speak love and wisdom into your blog world. It’s awesome that you shared a piece of your past even a piece that hurt so much at one time because in being transparent we are so much more real! Youth ministry leader in your future perhaps??

    what a beautiful post. thanks for sharing.

    Great post!
    Kisses.

    Oh Ashley…

    This was so beautiful and so true!

    “Find people who need GRACE and TRUTH and extend it to them.”

    I try to do this daily. I need it so much in my own life and the Lord is so rich in His mercy towards me.

    Your love is truly contagious~

    Thanks for passing this on, hope we all “catch it”…

    One of my favorite quotes, thanks for sharing something so personal.

    Too much of a temptation? Puh-leeze. That was just an excuse. That was blaming you for a short-coming in him. Not that I’m judging here. But I’m a little critical of those who blame others unfairly. I’m all about taking responsibility and being accountable, even though it’s hard at times. No one says we have to be perfect, just be the best we can, and love others. Thanks for sharing this.

    You are such an amazing writer! I’m Christian too and I totally agree with what you just said. Nice job!

    -Kelsey from Purply pink me
    Ps follow me? :)

    Beautifully said!

    Great devotional Ashley!!!! and love that scripture and a snapshot!

    Oh Ashley, so beautifully said…I truly enjoy following your blog.

    Excellent post…you are so inspirational with your words.

    Once again, you amaze us. You are a very strong woman and I whole-heartedly respect that. Acceptance is key in Christianity. You made my day, Mrs. Sisk. :-)

    I wrote on the same scripture reference several weeks back (http://thecharmingtyrant.blogspot.com/2011/02/first-stone.html) and I am really enjoying your reflections and your perspective.

    Ashley,

    I am so proud of you and everything you have overcome in your journey with Christ. I loved reading this! It blessed my soul more than you know! I think you might enjoy a book I am currently reading, “unchristian” by David Kinnaman. It offers some startling reality of the way Christians are perceived and the way we handle ourselves. LOVE YOU GIRLIE!

    Christians must definitely be careful of the attitude they portray so as to not hinder bringing others to the gospel.

    Beautiful message today Ashley! The picture with scripture is a welcome reminder too.

    Unconditional positive regard goes a long way.

    I look forward to these every week from you. I learn so so much & you are so inspiring. Thank you, I definitely needed this and I too want to be contagious within Christ! Amazing post! xo

    This is beautifully written, Ashley. Wow. And, you’re right, many of us can relate.

    Love love love this. I too grew up in a Christian church and have had my bouts with doubting my faith! It’s always so know we have a loving God who welcomes us back with open arms!

    This is such a great post. My husband and I have experienced more than our share of judgmental criticism from “christians” and it’s a total turn off from the church and from religion. It’s also an eye-opener when you find yourself doing the same thing and giving off that same vibe. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible and is a great reminder of how we are to LOVE one another rather than condemn. :)

    I’ll be the first to admit that I have fallen off the track. But I totally agree with your point. I’m not saying, in any way, that I’m not a believer. I DO believe in a higher power, in a god, and I feel like the ultimate greatest most perfect expression or proof of this ultimate being is love. Jesus was the greatest example of this perfect, unconditional love. I just think to myself, how much better would this world be if we could put our judgments aside and just instill love? It begins with one person and it’s a personal decision. I want to raise my child knowing to “love your neighbor”.

    This is such a wonderful post this week. Something that comes to mind is a quote from my RCIA classes last year. The teacher said, “Tell everyone about the love of Christ… and sometimes, use words.” To me, this is how I hope to share His love – by being an example (hopefully) of honesty, hope, grace, and forgiveness.

    perfectly put.

    What a great post! Thank you for sharing.

    Fantastic post! Your last paragraph says it all, and you do come across in love. I think it’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing! XO

    Amazing post – I’m very much of the opinion it is up to all of us to love and support all those around us. Judgement is out of our hands.

    Love! Ashley! Kudos for what you’ve written! Kudos to challenging a different outlook to “love” that sadly many Christians misinterpret and manipulate.

    We Love so that they may know Christ. We Love because He called us to. We Love because that is what we were created to do… and this morning, your Love is a whole lot contagious.

    Thank you for your comment on my SHS post. I agree with extending Grace & Truth to others. Have a great week.

    An excellent and powerful message about judgment — thank you, Ashley! And thanks for linking up — so glad to be able to help spread your message, Jesus’ message, a little more widely today!

    Well said, Ashley. In a society that is thick with labels and judgements it’s important to be reminded that we should strive not to live that way.

    This is such a wonderful post. I pray that I am also contagious … in the best possible way. For HIS glory.

    I recently wrote a post on this very topic on my main blog (not photo blog) but you communicated what I was trying to say with more gentleness and the fuller emphasis of love. Thanks for sharing.

    WOW…powerful post…powerful reminder. Beautifully written Ashley :)

    wow what a great post. Great truths to walk by. Thanks for sharing this.

    i love “infect them with foregiveness”…
    perfect post on a day when i heard from someone who overheard my sister (who lives 15 hours away) saying i don’t spend enough time w my children.. hmm.
    thank-you.

    Excellent post! Thanks so much for sharing this.

    Wonderful, wonderful post. :)

    Marla @ http://www.blueskiesphotoblog.com

    What a beautiful and heartfelt post Ashley. I truly enjoyed reading this.
    I wish you a beautiful day!

    Ashley, What a beautiful, well written post…speaks to me on so many levels. thank you!

    It sure is – I hope it becomes viral :)

    Excellent message for the church today.


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