What is behind judgmental strife? Why do servants of God, who have been forgiven so much personally, mistreat their brethren and refuse to fellowship with them? It can be traced back to the most grievous sin possible: despising the goodness of God.
I came to this conclusion only as I searched my own heart for the answer. I recalled my personal struggle to accept God’s mercy and goodness toward me. For years, I had lived and preached under a legalistic bondage. I tried hard to live up to standards that I thought led to holiness. But it was mostly just a list of dos and don’ts.
The truth is, I was more comfortable in the company of thundering prophets than I was at the cross, where my need was laid bare. I preached peace, but I never fully experienced it. Why? Because I was unsure of the Lord’s love and His forbearance of my failures. I saw myself as being so weak and evil that I was unworthy of God’s love. In short, I magnified my sins above His grace.
Because I didn’t feel God’s love for me, I judged everyone else. I saw others in the same way that I perceived myself: as compromisers. This affected my preaching. I railed against evil in others as I felt it rise up in my own heart. Like the ungrateful servant, I hadn’t believed God’s goodness toward me (see Matthew 18:32-33). And because I didn’t appropriate His loving forbearance for me, I didn’t have it for others.
Finally, the real question became clear to me. It was no longer, “Why are so many Christians hard and unforgiving?” Now I asked, “How can I possibly fulfill Christ’s command to love others as He loved me, when I’m not convinced He loves me?”
Paul admonishes, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).