Let Non-Christians Off the Hook

By Bob Myers

Last week I preached and referred to gospel culture.  I want to revisit some the building blocks for Gospel culture.

What is Gospel culture? It only exists where gospel doctrine is boldly believed, lovingly applied, and clearly proclaimed. How do you know that you’re in a church where the gospel is not only proclaimed but it has informed and filled out the church’s culture?

It’s a culture of deep gratitude and genuine positivity. Deep gratitude is not circumstantial. Genuine positivity is not dependent upon positive circumstances.  Gratitdue and positivity are character qualities based on deep spiritual awakening and awareness. It’s a complete mistake to think that the perceptive person is the one who sees the most problems. The spiritually perceptive person is the one who sees the most divine assets. Here’s an example: The Apostle Paul was called to write a letter to a congregation that we would say was deeply troubled, compromised, and worldly. He begins with thankfulness, praise to God, and confidence that the Holy Spirit was already there at work!   

Complaining about anything is completely out of sync with the gospel. Complaining about the sins of others is unthinkably contradictory in this atmosphere.  

It’s a culture of radical kindness. We’re so amazed at the kindness of God. We have it so much better than we really deserve. We know eternity will not be enough time to declare our astonishment at God’s grace to us. We never look at outsiders and non-believers as us vs. them. We look at them and wonder why it wasn’t them and not us who got saved.  And we know it was not because of anything superior in us. We are no different than they are, except we received saving  grace from God–even while we were running from God.  

We should more readily let people off the hook. The Bible teaches love covers a multitude of transgressions. I believe the vast majority of other people’s sins should be ignored. Not every relationship has enlisted me to “help” them in their character growth. Only when the bond and bridge of intimacy is quite strong should I consider it.

Because of this, we should let non-Christians off the moral hook. Do you do this?  So often I’m tempted to criticize a non-Christian because they do not live their lives according to Jesus’ blueprint. But I need to let them off the hook. They never accepted the blue print. So, I need to give them a break and stop expecting them to align their lives with something they have never come to conviction about.  So, we all ought to let non-Christians off the moral hook.  

We do this even though we believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. We do this even though we believe that Jesus is the only life, the best life, and that when we put His principles into practice, everything works out better. But still, we do not expect people who are not Christ followers to act like Christ followers. We actually respect and honor them, even when they make choices that violate our Jesus-informed morality and values.  

Here are reasons why we refuse to be condescending and judgmental towards non-Christians. (Taken from an article by Carey Nieuwhof)

1. They Act More Consistently With Their Value System Than You Do

It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite because they tend to live out what they believe. Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans. But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically. Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t a Christian, what would I be doing?” Chances are, you might be doing exactly what the non-Christians in your neighborhood are doing... or worse.

When I think about not having the motivation and frame work that Jesus has provided for my life it makes me tremble. I’m not sure I’d have any virtue that could withstand pressure or inconvenience. This realization helps me admire the virtues and positive choices that non-Christians make. It fuels my deep respect for them. Humility is the soil for honoring others. When I think rightly about myself it feeds honoring others. Usually we can tell whether someone respects, likes, or holds us in contempt. Honor non-Christians for living consistent with their value system.

2. Judging Outsiders Is Un-Christian

Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church. Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others. Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us was saved by the good we did but by grace.

So what can you do?  

Live Out Your Faith Authentically.

Your actions carry weight. Humility is far more attractive than pride. When a non-Christian sees integrity, it’s compelling. When integrity is joined with a humility that says, I regard you as at least an equal, it becomes attractional. 

Gospel culture that says, we’re a place where you can be completely honest about your past, and your past won’t matter in terms of your acceptance, and the warmth and depth of our welcome. That’s a place non-Christians might just run to. Then we might see the change we’re longing to see the gospel make. Gospel culture serves gospel proclamation.