For my daily quiet times, I am still using Grant Horner's system. I have tried to switch away from it, but I always end up coming back to it. One of its benefits is that it allows me to see connections and relationships between various passages. As I read through, I write out passages I find interesting. This morning, I wrote down sections from Titus 3 and Malachi 2.
Titus 3 essentially speaks to our character as Christ's ambassadors. Titus 3:2-7 reminds us that we are, "to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another."
Too often churches are filled with people who lack these character qualities. Rather than "speaking evil of no one," they slander, gossip, and criticize. They quarrel rather valuing love and gentleness. They hunt out heresies. They are eager to paint scarlet letters upon sinners. But we are called to something better. We were all dead to rights, running fast away from God, but in His mercy, he saved us based upon nothing good in us. Reflecting upon God's mercy, we should seek to show this patience and gentleness with nonbelievers and believers alike, even in the midst of sin.
I also wrote down Malachi 2:17 this morning. "You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, 'How have we wearied him?' By saying, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.' Or by asking, 'Where is the God of justice?'" In this verse, we are told that God is wearied by saying that evildoers are good in the sight of God. This seems to be the classic universalist position and, more frequently, the position of many people in the modern church. Many believe that God loves everybody no matter what, but that does not appear to be the biblical position (e.g., Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Leviticus 20:23, Proverbs 6:16-19, Hosea 9:15). These verses suggest that God does hate evildoers.
So how are we to reconcile these passages? As ambassadors for Christ, I believe we should not avoid hard conversations. Wavering on discussions of sin or of separation from a God who hates sin does nothing for people separated from Christ and facing eternity in Hell. At the same time, we are to gently and patiently love the broken. We are to tell them that there is a remedy for that sinfulness and our separation from God. The greatest love we can show to sinners is to point them to Jesus Christ. Titus 2:4-7 reads, "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
In other words, we are to be velvet bricks. We have a hard message, but we are to share it with gentleness and respect because we were shown the same through the person and work of Jesus Christ.