Posted by: Caleb Butler | October 26, 2009

Are you worth it?

“Hate the sin but love the sinner.”

The HOPE Team just finished reading Philip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” and this phrase was repeated several times. It’s a phrase we need to be reminded of, for it is how God treats us. God loves us because of who God is, not because of who we are.

Reflecting on this, I realized that I rarely treat others the way God treats me. I am incredibly reluctant to love someone that is different than me. If they have major differences in opinion, if they smell bad, if they look funny, if they are rude, if they are too popular, if they are lonely and bitter, I am reluctant. I want to make sure they “deserve” my time and services. (Or maybe I just want to make sure it won’t be too uncomfortable or too weird for me to love them.)

Yancey’s book reminded me of a simple truth I truly believe with all of my heart: Everyone is worthy of love.

Working at Jefferson Street Baptist Center, every day I am challenged to live this truth. With certain individuals, I can easily see their worth. They are kind and grateful, willing to talk and listen. With other individuals, their worth is hidden beneath a layer of dirt on their skin. With others, their worth is hidden behind a wall of seclusion, unwilling to open up, forged through years on the streets. With others, their worth is hidden underneath an addiction, causing them to become someone they are not.

Nonetheless, I am called to love each person I encounter. Because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, we can be set free from our sin. God has made us all worthy.

Consider this scene from the movie, Ironweed (explained in Yancey’s book): The characters played by Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep stumble across an old Eskimo woman lying in the snow, probably drunk. The two debate about what they should do about her.

“Is she a drunk or bum?” asks Nicholson.
“Just a bum. Been one all her life.”
“And before that?”
“She was a whore in Alaska.”
“She hasn’t been a whore all her life. Before that?”
“I dunno. Just a little kid, I guess.”
“Well, a little kid’s something. It’s not a bum and it’s not a whore. It’s something. Let’s take her in.”

I pray that I see the worthiness deep within Tom, Deborah, and Marquis in the Day Shelter. Each one of them at heart is just a little child in need of love. They have been searching in the wrong places, which have left them dry, tired, and confused. This search has brought them to Jeff. Street. God has dropped Tom in front of me with the opportunity to speak to his deepest need. I can look into Deborah’s eyes and tell her that I have an answer for her deepest pains: love in Jesus Christ.

Marquis is a child of God, who deeply loves him. He is worthy of God’s love. Will I tell him that? Will I show him that? Will I hate the sin but love the sinner?

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