I Want To Become Someone Who Loves Sinners

I Want To Become Someone Who Loves Sinners

It is difficult to love yourself if you do not love others.

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I know people who have done awful things. I am a person who has awful things. I have often heard the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin," but it has recently come to my attention that a big mission and next step in my life is to be someone who loves sinners, no matter how bad the sin. I say this because I come from a family with a lot of emotionally charged sin, but I am also a person who is no more or less a sinner than anyone else. Recently, it has come to my attention that I am certainly no saint, and for many people, it's hard to love others when they make horrible mistakes, mistakes that tend to hurt people.

The simple answer for why I want to become someone who loves sinners is because I have a natural propensity to stick up for the downtrodden and those other people give up on. In high school, I was always the kid that reached out to the person the rest of my friends ostracized, and in college, I've done my best to prioritize the art of reaching out to people, regardless of their situation or whatever I hear about them. Only I can make my opinion about someone else. Other people can influence it, but only I control how to regard and treat others, and most of the time I'll give the benefit of the doubt. That part of my personality has always served me well when I'm the person in a bad situation, the person people are saying terrible things about.

The professional answer for why I want to become someone who loves sinners is because Jesus did. In a parable I like to use often, the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, two men walk into a temple, a religious figure, the Pharisee, and a tax collector. The Pharisee prays "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." The tax collector prays "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" According to Jesus, the tax collector who prays for forgiveness goes home justified at the end of the day, not the Pharisee.

The parable ends with Luke 15:14, which states that "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Again, there are some recent unfortunate events in my life that have led me to be humbled, and I can say this definitively: there is absolutely nothing that makes you a more compassionate and empathetic person than being in need of compassion and empathy. When people reach out to you and extend kindness and compassion even when few think you deserve it are the times when you realize how virtues of grace and reaching out are in times of need for others. That is how you can get other people to believe in themselves.

Neediness is something people in my environment, particularly, scoff at. Being in an elite, highly competitive academic institution like Emory University, neediness is most often seen as a sign of weakness. But weakness often turns itself into strength, and there is better no way to improve a shortcoming than humbling yourself and admitting that you need help.

I have often heard that it's difficult to love others if you do not love yourself. I don't know if this is completely true, but I do believe the teaching has some truth to it. I would like to reverse the statement and say, instead, that it is difficult to love yourself if you do not love others. Say you spend your entire life condemning people close to you who do bad things and condemning the very people you regard as sinners. What happens when you perform the very same sin? Who's going to forgive you? Not yourself. Who is going to condemn you? That's right - yourself.

To love myself is the selfish reason why I want to become someone who loves sinners. Very often in my life, I used to stand on a moral high ground of righteousness, calling people out whenever they did things I disapproved of, like lying, cheating, or talking shit about others behind their back. What did it mean, later, when I did those very same things? It meant that I was a hypocrite, and that that same moral high ground meant that other people had the right to chastise me.

I've written before about how trying to be perfect is trying to be God. I believe we condemn people who do wrong in our eyes from a place of vanity, because we don't want to believe we can make the same mistakes. Those people. including myself at times, want to believe that they're not human; they want to believe they're God. According to crime writer, Zach Fortier, "anyone is capable of anything given the right set of circumstances." The now highly unethical Milgram experiment found that the vast majority of men would obey instructions to administer deadly shocks to observers and perform acts against their personal conscience. I wholeheartedly believe that if I were a citizen of Nazi Germany, I would have perpetuated the very same acts of evil that were performed in the war and Holocaust.

Romans 5:8 tells us that "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." So, I want to move forward being someone who loves sinners for all these reasons, but above all because other people loved me when I myself sinned greatly.

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An Open Letter to the Best Friend I Didn't See Coming

Some people come into your life and change you forever—thanks, bestie.
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Dear best friend,

I wasn't expecting you when God placed you in my life. I had my friends. I had my people. I wasn't exactly open to the idea of new meaningful friendships because I had the ones I needed, and it didn't seem like I really needed anybody new.

Thank God that was false. Sometimes you meet people and you just know that you're going to be good friends with. Sometimes you meet people and you realize that there is no such thing as chance. I think God has a funny way of making it seem as if the things that happen to us are by chance, but honestly, that’s a load of crap. If the biggest moments of our lives were left up to chance, then I believe that would make God out to seem as if he didn’t care. It would make it seem as if He was truly abandoning me and making me face some of my most important seasons fully isolated. But you, best friend, are a true testament to the fact that God doesn’t just leave such important aspects up to chance. Thank you for taking a chance on our friendship, and thank you for allowing me to take a chance on what I didn’t realize would be the most impactful friendship in my entire life.

Thank you for being real with me. Thank you for not sugar coating things. Thank you for telling me when I have a bad attitude. Thank you for loving me through my mistakes. Thank you for supporting me in my decisions, even if it isn’t always the decision you would make. Thank you for wanting the best for me, and for making that your true intent behind the words that you say to me, whether they be constructive criticism or encouragement.

Thank you for being a goof with me. Thank you for putting me first. Thank you for seeing the importance of our friendship. Thank you for making time in your schedule for us to just sit and do homework, eat Mexican food, or sit on the porch and listen to music that emotionally wrecks you.

You’re one of a kind. You’re a shoulder to lean on. You’re a safe place. You’re a free spirit. You’re rough and tough, but your heart melts for the people you love and it’s obvious. You’re more than meets the eye. You are worth getting to know. You are worth loving. You pursue people. You are passionate about your future. You are everything that a person needs, and I really thank God that for some reason you continue to choose to be in my life. Thank you for literally dragging me up my mountains of fear when I want to stay exactly where I am at and wallow in the sadness. You bring joy—true joy—wherever you go. You are my best friend, confidant, and biggest fan. You will be the Maid of Honor, Godmother, and fun Aunt.

I used to think lifelong friendships weren’t really a thing. It just seemed like people always grew apart and forever was never a point that was attainable. Best friends forever is a cliché phrase that is continuously overused nowadays (sometimes, I even used to make light of it), but thanks for making that a reality. You are truly the best friend I could have asked for. So thank you for it all. You make life more fun, and I couldn’t thank God more for making an incredible human, friends with me.

I love you, pal!

JQ

Cover Image Credit: Julia Dee Qualls

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Stop Assuming Your Queer Friends Are Going To End Up Falling For You

News flash: if you're my friend, the chances of me falling for you are slim to none.

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Ever since I came out my senior year, I've encountered bumps of my friendships due to my sexuality. I think people understand gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities rather well. However, there are other members of the LGBTQ+ community that isn't as understood as well.

I identify as pansexual but start using the term queer. Essentially, I don't have a preference if someone identifies as female or male. When it comes to love and relationships, I care about the quality of the person and if I'm getting the love and respect I deserve.

However, to some of my friends, they seemed to become afraid. They distanced themselves in our friendships in fear I would end up falling for them.

News flash: if you're my friend, the chances of me falling for you are slim to none. You are my friend for a reason. If I liked you, I would honestly be too nervous to talk to you.

It's nice to know to have that kind of self-confidence where you think everyone has a crush on you. That's the attitude to have because you are a pretty great person. However, sorry to break it to you, but you just are not my type.

There is absolutely no reason to cut off a friendship just because you don't understand. Your queer friends would probably like you to ask questions. It can be a sign you care about them and showing support. There is nothing wrong with asking questions either. When you're in class and you don't know anything, then you ask a question. When you are getting to know someone, you ask questions. Even if you knew this person for a while, ask away!

I think there is a stigma of not knowing something and feeling embarrassed. However, it shouldn't be this way. We should embrace the unknown, learn, and grow from it. It's 2019. It's all about being open-minded to differences. We have to do better for the next generation.

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