Jesus modeled well for us how to treat sinners. The SCOTUS decision in the United States, which legalized gay marriage has brought lots of scathing comments from all sides and an overwhelming amount of questions about how Christians should respond to the culture around us.
The best thing we can do is follow Jesus’ regarding how to treat sinners.
How Did Jesus Treat Sinners?
Jesus told us not to judge other sinners.
Jesus clearly tells us not to judge others (Matthew 7:1-2). We can’t expect non-Christians to behave like Christians. Instead, we should focus on being a light to them and loving them.
Over and over again, the Bible tells us the importance of loving others (1 Corinthians 16:14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-6, 13).
It is hard to love others, and show the gospel to them when we are angry at them or hating on them. Anger and hate are not the way of Jesus.
Jesus showed mercy to the sinner caught in sin.
One day Jesus was teaching crowds of people in the temple, and religious leaders brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to him and set her in front of the crowd accusing her—asking Jesus what should be done with her.
Jesus does the weirdest thing, something that still leaves Bible experts confounded. He doesn’t respond at first … he literally stoops down and starts writing in the dust on the floor.
They kept demanding an answer, and Jesus finally stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”
Then he stooped down and kept writing in the dust!
One by one, the crowd began to leave. The Scripture says, “beginning with the oldest.” The oldest likely left first because they had realized over the years how weak and vulnerable they were to sin themselves, and how many times they had failed throughout their life to adhere to God’s law.
What was Jesus writing in that dust? It’s almost like Jesus didn’t draw a line in the sand for the sinner. Instead, maybe he was writing the sins of the various religious leaders or crowd members in the dust? Maybe he was pointing out that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) or “if anyone claims to be without sin, they are a liar and the truth is not in them” (1 John 1:8-10).
Either way, weird, right?!
Jesus shows overwhelming, astonishing mercy to this woman caught in sin. His response to her after every single person had left like dogs with their tails caught between their legs, was …
“Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
In a very real sense, Jesus shows overwhelming, astonishing mercy and undeserved grace to sinners, and yet Jesus send the self-righteous scurrying off like dogs with tails caught between their legs.
Jesus doesn’t give her a free-pass to remain in her sin. He tells her to “sin no more.” With another man Jesus encountered, Jesus says, “Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).
So Jesus doesn’t condone the sin, but He also doesn’t condemn the sinner. He is the only One who can rightly condemn, and yet he offers overwhelming, astonishing grace to all of us.
While many Christians are out condemning sinners, Jesus did the opposite—He gave His very life to bear sinners’ sin and condemnation on the cross—he showed us how to treat sinners.
But Jesus didn’t hide the truth about sinners.
Some conclude Jesus was only gentle with sinners (and he often was) but we must also remember there were times when his hard teachings caused great crowds to leave in droves (John 6:60-68).
Jesus was clear about the truth, even when it was not popular, and even when it caused crowds to scatter. He wasn’t just trying to build a large following—He was on a mission to share both truth and love in profound ways, ways that still shake the world today.
Keep in mind that the crowd didn’t scatter because Jesus was rude and judgmental. If our attitude or anger turns people away from Jesus, we are dead wrong.
However, there are times to share truth gently and respectfully (1 Peter 3:15), but stand for it nonetheless. Even though sometimes the world will hate us for it (John 15:18; Matthew 10:22; John 3:19-21).
There is a time to warn people, even non-Christians, against the deadly effects of the ways of this world (see Ezekiel 3:18; Acts 20:26-27). Although mainly we should focus on preaching the hope and truth of the gospel—because only the gospel can change hard hearts—it is the only thing that worked for us.
When it comes to how to treat sinners, we need both gentleness and holy truth. We can’t be afraid to be clear about Christ’s truth. It makes me sad when Christian leaders, or Christians in general, won’t admit to the truth of God’s Word simply because it is unpopular in culture and might turn people off. There may be times when the crowds leave us too, as they did for Jesus, and only those true remain.
We shouldn’t be surprised by times of declining Christianity—if the crowds left our Lord Jesus because of hard teachings, there are bound to be times like this for us too. Even in America.
So, when it comes to how to treat sinners, no more angry judging. Offer overwhelming, astonishing mercy to sinners. But don’t hide the truth or be afraid of the crowds scattering.