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).