We have all had those moments, when someone said something to us and it just froze us, it was so off-the-freakin-charts insensitive.

I told someone one time that my daughter had epilepsy.

She look at me and responded with all sincerity.

“My Saint Bernard had epilepsy. He had a seizure one time and died of it.”

People say stuff. They aren’t thinking — clearly.

They tell us if we are single that one day we can hope to be married, if we lost a family member that they lost one too and they are better now. If our pet dies, well, we can get another one, if we have lost money “it is only money.”

If they offer to help with something, it is often on their terms, in a way that works for them, mostly advice — or veiled criticism.

A young single mom with young children told me recently that people have said to her, “You are a beautiful woman, you can easily get a man again.”

But would you want one?

It is just assumed that you would, because this is the patriarchal mindset that dominates everyday family-style clishmaclaver.

Helping often seems to be all about the helper, and the world view they are comfortable with.

People aren’t okay with our losses because it makes them insecure about their lives — that they could lose too — and so when they encounter our difficulties they want us to “get well,” to get back to social normal, for their sake, so they can continue basking in the blissful myth that all is well with the world — always or at least eventually.

It is not. God doesn’t fix everything, neither does money, nor does time, nor does “a man.”

What to do?

We can get cynical. We can get comical. We can get snarky. We can get quiet. All these work, and we will need this whole arsenal of response to survive — them, our saviors, our little helpers.

That being said, it occurs to me that no pleasure is greater than a comeback — that’s not later.

Someone I don’t know told me a while back that I was going to hell for not giving them money when they asked.

The next time I get that I think I’ll just agree with them. I have often thought the same thing myself. But I don’t think the main thing against me will be stinginess with users. God knows there is worse than that.

Of late I am of a mind to simply agree with those who think poorly of me. They don’t know the half of it. If we had time, I could give them a truck load of my failings, but it might just upset them more — poor things.

People are just full of judgment, and advice. When I was going through a particularly hard stretch I got this trite and untrue message from overly-Christianized people, “Everything happens for a reason.”

Yeah, it does. A lot happens because some people are jerks! People do bad stuff, and there are no good reasons lurking in the background behind all their mess making. God didn’t do it, the harmful stuff, a person did, and that isn’t easy to live with.

People want to nullify that, the legitimacy of hurt, taking responsibility for evil, and they want to powder away all negative responses. “Don’t get bitter,” they advise sagely.

“Bitter, of course we get bitter! And do you know what, I’m sure God is bitter too, in his own righteous way, because he didn’t want this stuff to happen to us,  and you would have a bitter taste in your mouth if this kind of thing happened to you!”

When we eat bitter fruit, we taste a bitter taste, and that isn’t a sin or a failure or a choice. It’s a bitter reality.

Now I’m getting worked up and so you can all see clearly,  “Wow, he’s a piece of work.”

Yup, you have no idea.

Life can get heavy — relationally and physically.

“Without further adieu, let’s give it up for some new elements, very heavy, recently discovered and added to the periodic table, numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 — nihonium, moscovium, tennessine and oganesson!“

These are — as you can see — mostly named after the places they were discovered, and furthermore and interestingly enough, they are superheavy and super-unstable. They decay almost instantly, like some relationships, and for now anyway, they have absolutely no value.

In the last few weeks, I’ve discovered some more heavy elements, in people’s reactions to me — weighty emotions, unstable relational stuff.

Someone expressed jealousy over my social circle, and then they got snarky with me for having so many friends. Somebody else wanted to team up on a project, then they didn’t, if they couldn’t run it. Somebody wanted me to give them money — after they told me all the crazy things that had just happened to them — but I think most of those things didn’t happen.

Niffle-naffled; I’m baffled. What do you do?

In each of these cases, there was stuff going on that didn’t have anything to do with me.

Funky relational stuff — what do we do with it? What do we do with it if it is rooted in the other person’s past and has absolutely nothing to do with us?

It happens. Unstable responses to what we say, decide and do — it happens. Sometimes we ourselves put our stuff on others. I’ve done this. I’ve made something someone else fault when the problem was really in me. Such things are part of the universal periodic table of emotional and relational heavy elements. We create problems for others that are our own; we try to solve issues that aren’t ours.

If we have been socialized to be overly polite, (many introverted or shy young people suffer from this) we may get triggered and apologize for stirring someone up when we didn’t. If we have been overly and dysfunctionally Christianized we may rush to the moral imperative “love your neighbor as yourself” and get busy loving, in other words owning a problem that isn’t ours.

Ah, so painful!

No dysfunctional, unnecessary apologizing, and no misguided Christianized enabling will help.

Owning other people’s stuff is not good for us or them, not good relationally and not good for maintaining healthy psyches.

People’s reactions, those deeply rooted in the issues that arise from their families of origin, or reactions deeply rooted in their previous hurts, these are not ours to adopt. They are unstable; they complicate our relationships unnecessarily; they decay relationships.

We can’t own what isn’t ours. We can’t fix what isn’t ours. We can be gentle with everyone. We can refuse to judge others; we can overlook their craziness, but we can’t take their issues into our souls. Even if we are therapists or pastors, we aren’t wise to try to own what belongs to someone else.

Those who are painfully triggered by their past can examine their emotions — we may be able to help them do that if they ask — and they may heal from them if they can own them, but as far as us taking responsibility for what isn’t ours — it does no good.

Without further adieu, let’s give it up for the discovery of emotional boundaries. Healthy barriers work really well in avoiding harm from other people’s super-heavy emotional elements!

Little things make us sane — a delicious pastry with coffee, a flowering vine on a trellis, a hug, a cat on our lap, the sound of small round pebbles rolling in a wave on a beach.

Little things also drive us crazy — a wood splinter in our finger, dropping a plate in the kitchen, an unanswered text, a sarcastic comment or unwanted behavior by a friend or family member.

It’s funny how much little stuff can make or break social equanimity, especially in our close relationships.

Someone makes a comment. It has a slight edge to it — we flinch. “What did they mean?”

We make a mistake, suffer an omission, toss off a negative comment, fail to do what was asked.

“Will they like us anymore?”

“Are we still okay with them?”

They fail us, in these same ways, or so we think.

Are we still okay with them?

It comes down to this: self-management, the management of emotion, the management of response, the management of behavior,  the management of our hearts, the management of each of our precious relationships — to wisdom.

Responding to small irritations is always a decision, a judgment — just let it go, shed it, process it by yourself (“It doesn’t mean anything. It is an isolated incident.”), or the other route — bring it up, talk about it, find out what is really going on, work it through with them or with someone we trust, “Hey, what’s really going on here?”

There is no formula, but a few things might help.

We need to ground our emotions in reality. Often the problem, our anxiety, our irritation is in us, in our own pickiness, our own insecurity, our family of origin issues, our friendship of origin issues. Our emotion is rising out of our previous conflicts and tensions with others. If this is the case we must identify the real source of our emotion.

If the emotion is coming from a past harmful or toxic relationship, we must be careful not to let that emotion contaminate our new relationships. What ruined one friendship must not be allow to ruin another. Toxicity from one relationship doesn’t belong in another. It has no right, no place there. The people who have hurt us in the past, how we responded, does not belong in our new, healthy relationships. We must bar the door.

But if the current irritation is the result of a persistent abrasive behavior that currently exists in us, or in our current friends, in or colleagues and is beginning to build up, to cause resentment, to fester, then we must bring it up, to the surface, with ourself, with others, and apply the talking cure to heal it. If someone is letting us down, failing us, hurting us repeatedly, we must be brave and bring this up to them.

This helps, this kind of analysis. We do well when we ask the question: “Where are these feelings coming from?” And, “What is reality here?”

We must identify relational and emotional reality, ground our emotions and our responses in reality, and proceed from there.

The proper handling of little things, our emotions, our specific behaviors, other’s emotions and behaviors, this is essential to maintaining mental health and good relationships.

Get this right, and we will remain sane, and connected — kind of, the best we can, okay for now.

I’m good with okay for now.

 

Failure is not the most humbling thing, usually — success is.

Not for everybody of course, but for all of us, if we are willing to look success in the eye — and not blink.

The other day I succeed in hiring a new staff member for my organization, a young woman with little experience but a beautifully inspiring persona that perfectly matches the work she will do. It was very humbling.

I knew how to do this by previously failing at doing this, and then succeeding at it a few times, which has made me super-aware that no matter how well you vet a potential hire, you don’t know them until you know them — over time — or you intuit them precisely and accurately, or you get lucky.

Most every success is born of some failure and includes within it some failure so it contains both success and failure. This helps with the humility thing.

Take me. I am a modestly successful writer. I have failed at this writing thing more than I have succeeded. I have written much more that has remained unpublished than has been published. I have written a few things well, and many things in a mediocre fashion. Interestingly, my best work is unplublished — except as it exists in blog form — written for a small following. I consider it successful just to have written it, even if it were read by no one.  My best writing is a personal success, not a public success, quite humble in impact and influence, but hugely satisfying to me.

Success, furthermore — when it is rightly considered — is also humbling because it is communal. We can’t take the credit alone. Each and everyone of our successes follows and builds on someone else’s previous success, on their nurture of us, on their input, their contribution, their support, often their collaboration with us.

I recently oversaw a rather large building project — a beautiful, interior garden courtyard. It was all others — their money, their expertise, their volunteerism, their passion, their aesthetic, their labor.

It is always like that.

I am a teacher. I know how to do the teacherly thing. Every teacher I have ever had — from first grade through graduate school — made me a teacher. All their input, modeling, nuturing and care — as well as that of my family and my many friends — this support made me a into a reasonably effective pedagogue.

Finally, much of our success — as previously noted — is luck, or chance or providence. It is not us, and we know it. Anyone who has made it will tell you that. To come on the scene at the right time, to be the right fit, to have an opportunity come our way — so much literally falls into our laps, or it doesn’t.

My current job — which I absolutely adore, mostly — and which has contained much success — was handed to me. I did nothing to get it. All God, I’d say, and a few other odd, painful and interesting circumstances.

Success — it’s a form of humility.

If we don’t know that, we know nothing of success.

“What if you just yack your way through the rest of your life?” I asked one of my good friends today.

“That would work,” she said. “That’s what I do best.”

I agree. She’s a yacker, and I love listening to her yackety yak. She goes on — and off, delightfully. I can only hope and pray she ardently devotes herself to it.

She told me today, “There are no bad words; there is only bad timing.” I’m good with that. I am always looking for the wrong word at the right time. It makes people laugh.

I took my time at the credit union today to talk to three different staff members, yacking it up about family, the holidays, church. It was a bit of verbal delectation — I tossed in a few bon mots — for me and for them. Like my friend, it’s what I do. More of that, in print, that’s what’s next for me.

What’s next? For any of us?

What’s next is what has been that wants to be more so —  but that which will take intention, choice and courage — and will come at a cost — really.

There must be a shedding of what has been that wants to be less so and a filling of that empty space with what wants to be that hasn’t been yet.

We wait too long.

We wait until the garage is full. We delay until someone has to call the doctor for us — or the therapist. We put off applying for the new job until we are sick to death of the old one. We delay the art project until it is too late to do it. We retire to late. It is easier to drift, to float than to act out something new. We hawk the past to ourselves to avoid buying our tickets to the good future.

We neglect our craft. We slouch toward the future.

I wonder. Is it time for you and me to stop doing what we are doing so we can start doing what we really want and need to be doing. — the good stuff, like more yacking?

What isn’t working?

What might be better?

Don’t slouch toward Bethlehem; don’t amble toward the future.

Run toward it!

Since the November election many savvy American commentators have sagely noted that we are a divided country.

“Do ya think?”

The odds of running into people who think the opposite of what you do about politics are about fifty-fifty.

So what do you do when faced with a person espousing different views from your own?

How about if you say, “Will you tell me more about that?”

It’s a great line, the kind of verbiage that can help us all immensely, the kind of language that can help us to just get on with it, with the understanding part, without someone getting hurt.

Not every adversative is a casus belli.

When people say something that we disagree with socially, epistemologically, theologically — or God forbid, politically — when inside we react to that dissonant point-of-view fast-breathingly, jaw-clenchingly and froth-mouthingly, then I suggest that we all — including myself — stay seated, and that we lean in toward our perceived opponent, that we place our forearms on our knees in an open and relaxed posture, that we nod in a positive and inviting manner and looking straight into their ignorant, narrow-minded, uninformed eyes we say gently, “Tell me more about that.”

Here is the deal, for me and for you, oh wise ones,  first just, “Be quiet!” Do that to protect your hearts — and to give space for understanding and to protect other people’s sense of safety in our presence.

There will be plenty of opportunites to say what we think — which of course is okay to do, and which of course we will do at appropriate times — but first let’s take control of ourselves, first let’s stop thinking of what we want to say back, and then let’s go at it by asking questions, so we can breathe again. First let’s go into listening mode, first try to understand, first be curious, open, calm, investigative, smart.

Why?

We tend not to understand the other side — too much. We tend to think we are right — too much. We tend to argue when we should learn — too much. To get smart, to do well, to keep our friends — our work or school colleagues —  to keep our families together, to keep our churches together, to make new friends, to not have stress disorders and to get more wise and sagey, we need to open ourselves to people who think differently than we do.

It is a mark of maturity to listen to, to like, to love and even to adore people we disagree with. It is a mark of a good thinker to listen to all sides. The ancient, trustworthy and wise Holy Scripture itself tells us that true wisdom is “open to reason.”

Listening doesn’t mean we have to change our perspectives, our opinions or our values. It just means that we are open to understanding someone else’s viewpoint. This so helps; it helps us not to run off the steep and scary cliff of trying to make everyone else think like we do.

They won’t, much, or they will, sometimes, or not.

Give it a rest.

How do we survive the divisions in our country?

We get smart; we get back to learning from and about each other.

This weekend one of my brother’s asked me an interesting question, “How do you think pain was handled in the family we grew up in?”

Fascinating!

After we threw this around for 45 minutes — my brother, his wife, my daughter, me — I can note a couple of things.

Siblings don’t grow up in the same family.

Each child has a unique experience of their family, based on the child’s own personality, based on what is going on in the family during the most vulnerable years, based on difference in how the parents relate to the children.

I had wonderful parents. They were loving, godly, present, good. But I didn’t always get what I needed when it came to processing pain. I needed more processing than I got. I needed for us to sit down and talk about the pain, the psychological pain, particularly how we experiencing it, what it was doing to us, how we felt about it. I think that I needed this because I am a very verbal processor and because I am sensitive to emotions. I am a thinker, but I am also a feeler.

When my mom got breast cancer, I was 15 or 16 years old. I remember sitting by her bed, in her bedroom, holding her hand, worrying about her — mom and I alone in a dark room. I never remember any helpful conversations about her cancer, with my dad, with her or with my brothers. My mom had a mastectomy. My dad worked, my brothers and I went to school, my mom recovered. We we’re a product of our times. We were workers, doers, not emotional processors, but even if we had wanted to talk, I would say that we didn’t even have the language we needed to talk about all this.

Only later in life did my mom tell me how emotionally painful the surgery was for her, how she felt horribly disfigured by it, how she suffered over that through the years. Only later in life did I realize how alone she was in that, and how alone I was during those years. My mom has always been a classy woman, always beautifully dressed, very conscious of her appearance, but she became a cancer survivor, a mastectomy survivor — with a hidden wound —  and her experience shaped my experience.

After finishing my undergrad, I fell in love with Linda, the woman I married, the love of my life. We started off talking, and we kept on talking. We talked, and talked and talked, about everything, always —  we still do. Talking is at the core of our relationship. We process life, it’s events, our emotions, our two daughter’s emotions with talk. Perhaps we over-process things, but talk, talk, talk — we go for the talking cure.

My kids aren’t perfect. They too didn’t get everything they needed from the family my wife and I created. Looking back, even with our penchant toward processing, some things in the family didn’t get adequately processed. At times, we simply didn’t know what the girls were feeling, or thinking or what they needed.

I love the family I grew up in. My parents are beautiful people. They absolutely did the best they could.  I love the family I created for myself. We too did the best we could. I come from good stock. Throughout my extended family, we have handled pain well enough to stay together, to have successful lives, to avoid addiction, to avoid separation. But I would say this, from my own, limited, needy perspective.

People need to talk.

More than we even know.

Talking helps.

Listening helps.

Talking and listening — this helps relieve pain.

“Love hurts.”

Pop music said so. Sometimes we say so.

The Bible never said that.

The Bible, while acknowledging the sacrifice that is often involved in love — for instance the death of Christ — sees more than pain in love.

The Bible mostly focuses on the good, not the hurt, that comes from love.

Colossians 3:14. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

The Bible tells us love helps, heals and harmonizes. We need that today and everyday.

We may be the Tylenol generation, looking for pain relief, but the Bible prescribes it’s own a effective pain killer medicine and it isn’t a drug. It’s love.

A construction contractor came by church on Thursday to look at putting new flooring in room 5. This is where we hold our art class, Bible studies, support groups, REFINERY 101.

Cool because a church member donated $2,000 to do this. Who does that? Just up and says, “I’ll pay for a new floor. Christian people do.

Thats love!

Giving binds us together in a safe, beautiful place, in perfect harmony.

Love hugs us together. At a time when their are some pretty significant divisions in our country, we need that.

The Bible doesn’t say, “put on love so you can be bond to each other in painful relationships.”

The Bible says, “put on love that you may make beautiful music together.

Think of all the people who have loved you and the difference it has made in your life. Parents, kids, aunts and uncles, grandma’s, grandpa’s, friends, brothers, sisters, teachers, doctors, nurses

Their love is easy, good, natural.

Thinking that love will be hard, can cause us to hold back, to stay away from others, to isolate, to limit our relationships to just a few people.

For example, if I see love as hurtful, I might avoid avoid anyone I dislike or disagree with, and while it is true that relating to such people can become uncomfortable, uncomfortable is a small price to pay for connected.

Isolating brings a temporary feeling of safety, but that is not worth the loss in being alone.

God doesn’t want us to live alone, holding back, isolating. What hurts us most is not loving others.

This is important.

Think about it. The two greatest commandments of the Bible both involve love — love God, love your neighbor.

Being close to each other is at the core of God’s purpose for us.

1 John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The most classic, basic truth in the world is that God is love.

Last week my wife Linda ran into a guy named Chuck Casto at her work at Point Loma University.

Chuck’s daughter, Sonja, died of cancer a few years back, she was 43, had kids.

So when Linda saw Chuck last week, she asked him, “How are you doing Chuck? It’s been a couple of years.” She went there.

And Chuck said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my daughter. The only thing that helps me is to know she is with God, and that God loves her more than I do.”

“It helps me to know that,” he said. “God love her more than me. That is what helps.”

When love hurts, love helps.

God is love and his love is the power that overcomes different views, disagreements, hurts, even death.

What is Christianity about?

Some people make their Christianity all about rules, or politics, or about Bible reading, or about spiritual gifts, or about signs and wonders, or about doctrine or discipline.

All good, but the Bible makes Christianity all about love.

When all else fails, at times when we fell separated from others, love helps. Love heals. Love keeps us warm, close, safe, satisfied, hopeful.

Last week, I asked my wife, “When did you feel most loved by me?”

She said, “When you came to the hospital and sat with me, and when I needed water and you went out and bought me some, and you had nothing else that was more important than being with me.”

It reminds us. Love is simple. As simple as water. Love is basic, memorable, accepting the other person, just being there.

It comes down to small, daily decisions.

Last week a friend called and wanted to go to coffee. We had trouble scheduling a time. Nothing seem to work.

Then I just made a decision. Pick a time that works for her, and just make it work for you. I choose to love.

We had a great time talking at Starbucks. She texted me after, “I always feel refreshed after talking to you.”

Love refreshes.

Sometimes it is so simple, a little time, just a shift of focus, away from ourselves, toward the other.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

How?

Six simple ways.

1. Spend time together.

2. Be present.

3. Exude warmth.

4. Overlook differences.

5. Forgive the past.

6. Don’t quit

Loving hurts. I’ll give you that.

But not loving hurts more.

“If you run after them then you create false sincerity,” she said — straight up, just  perfectly, “What?” — just what I needed to hear.

My brain turned over, picked up this verbal dollop, this insight topping, this perfectly selected accent of sweet wisdom, applied it to the person I have been over-pursuing, and laid it down in a neural groove for later retrieval.

“Bang!”

The neurons are firing now.

I’ve have learned the “false sincerity” lesson before, by another name, but I have forgotten it before too, and when she said it just right, I added the “false sincerity” moniker to my labeling file and considered it the morning’s bon mot, cup of proverbial tea, fine phrase and then I took it under advisement — and it helped.

Be advised.

Helping people is an fine art, a subtle art, a nuanced art.  If you do too much for them, if they do too little, if you ask them to do stuff like come to the recovery group, come to church, come to water aerobics, but too much, and they don’t want to, often they will still come — but with false sincerity, to please you, to assauage guilt, to look good — and then they won’t come again until asked again, shamed again or bribed.

All this wastes everybody’s time and trashes hope too. People must want to change to change. They must get it, inside, and want it, in their deep brain, and intend to go after it with all they have, or they won’t.

Sincerity of the real, good, person-changing type is self-motivated.

You have heard the phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” The Bible never said that. Sorry.

This saying is actually derived from a quote by Gandhi.

Well, you might say, even though these precise words aren’t in the Bible, the principle of the saying is there, right? Yes, the concepts are there, but not in exactly that language.

Romans 12:9 says, Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

That is about the clearest verse that speaks of hating sin and loving people, but note that it doesn’t say sinners. It says others. I do believe we can say, it’s Biblical, to hate sin.

It is right, moral, appropriate to hate wrongs like rape, murder, incest, child abuse, torture and sex slavery. We hate the harm they do to precious people.We grieve over such sin. Allepo and Mosul, I grieve the harm to women, children, old.

But one of the dangers in “hate the sin,” mentality is that we have a tendency to hate other people’s sin — sin we don’t have — while tolerating, excusing, overlooking or even loving our own sin.

The other evening, my wife and I were coming home from concert, she was driving, and she took a longer route than I would have to avoid some traffic.

The backstory is that she has been hating her commute from Chula Vista to Point Loma, all the traffic, and has been telling me that a lot.

So, when she took a route that I wouldn’t have taken, on the way home from the concert, I said, with all the sensitivity and wisdom of a good husband, “If you choose routes like this, no wonder it takes you so long to get home from work.”

As soon as I said it, I knew I was a sinner.

And she being a saint, she didn’t explain that to me, except to say I had hurt her feelings.

My name is Randy Hasper, and I am a sinner. And I think the church would function better if it functioned like an AA group. Mostly, I need to not get ramped up about other people’s sin; I need to take care of my side of the street, my sin, and seek to make amends to the people I have wronged.

Ashamed of my own words, I apologized to my wife. Repent quickly.

I think of Ann Lamott: , “God put us together with other people on the planet to make us crazy enough that we give up on our own bad ways and surrender to his love and forgiveness.” The point? Be more concerned about your own sin than others.

But there is something else to say about our own sin. Be careful not to hate your own sin so much, that you end up hating yourself and shaming yourself and thinking that you can get holy by beating up on yourself.

The other day, one of my daughters dropped and broke my favorite espresso cup.

She knows how much my espresso means to me. Every morning, espresso brings me back from the dead.

She felt badly, felt some shame, some guilt.

But we have a thing in our house where if someone breaks something — because we are all a bit brain damaged in my house — nobody says anything except stuff like, “Oh, it’s just a cup, no big deal, here let me help you clean it up.”

Shame won’t bring the cup back. Beating up on ourselves or others for sin just weighs us down. Hate won’t make sin go away. After we fail, after we drop the moral cup, it is a looking to God that helps, not focusing on the sin, for then we hear him say, “Here, let me help you clean that up.

Putting our eyes back on God, forgives us, heals us, and helps us get back to doing the right thing.

So hate the sin … well … that’s right, but keep you eyes on God not on your sin.

The other problem with the “hate the sin, love the sinner,” thing is that the NT doesn’t encourage us to judge or condemn ourselves — or even other people — as sinners.

Matthew 7:1. Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

It’s true that we do all sin, and say they don’t, but to label someone a “sinner” puts us in an judging, “us versus them” position, where we become the “righteous” person looking down our nose at those poor, wretched, ignorant “sinners” who just cannot get their act together.

Forget that. We need to worry about our side of the street. We are only responsible for our side of things, not theirs.

Last night I took responsibility for my side of the street with my wife. She has been complaining that I don’t always hear her when she speaks.

I told her, “I know, babe, so for you I went to the doctor about this last week. He told me I now have a 95% to 100% hearing loss.

I told him about our problem, and he is recommending that from now on you just stop speaking to me. It’s not my fault. I will just have to suffer, in silence, in blissful silence, the rest of our married life.”

Finally, the last and biggest problem with the “sinner” label, in the “love the sinner” thing is that there is much more to us than sinner. We were all created in the image of God, and while sin has twisted and smudged that image, it hasn’t erased it.

There is gold in you. “There is gold in them thar hills.”

Think of how Jesus viewed us. Jesus hung out with unrighteousness people like us, but that isn’t how he labeled us. Jesus’s own billing, his marquee, it wasn’t “Jesus the Messiah: eating and drinking with prostitutes and sinners.”

That was the labeling used by the religiously judgmental. When he hung out with sinners, he didn’t act like they were sinners.

His sinner were his friends, not his projects. They were people with faces and names. They were his sheep in need of his care. They were beloved children. Jesus wasn’t their accuser. He left that to the devil — or the religious right.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Take the woman caught in a sexual sin. Sinner is not how Jesus saw her. When he told her to go and sin no more he was revealing that he saw that she was person who was capable of righteousness.

She sinned, I sin, and you sin, we all sin, but that is not our primary identity. Our primary identity, our root identity, is as the children of God. Getting back to that is what helps us stop sinning.

1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

I remember once when life really beat me down, and I kind of lost myself, I called by friend Rob Mahan, and went to lunch with him.

I told him what had happened that made me lost my confidence, and he asked me, “So, then, who are you?”

I said, “Well, I am a pastor, a writer, a teacher,” and he was like, “Well, that’s what you do, but who are you?”

I was a bit confused. He was looking for a deeper answer. I’m dense sometimes. It took me some time to sort that out. I am — no matter what anyone thinks or says about me — a child of God. I am valuable, special, unique, useful, loved child of God. I am a person of value, not for what I do, but for who I am. Nobody can take that away from me.

This is true of you too. Never let anybody take that away from you. Nobody has that power over you, to proclaim you worthless, a failure, a mistake.

Sin is terrible, and the things we do to each other that take away worth are terrible, in fact they are so terrible they lead to the death of Jesus, but sin didn’t define him, and it doesn’t define you.

Jesus was the son of God, who triumphed over sin, and in him, you are a new creation, not a sinner.

Romans 8:1 There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

I am  done with being critical, with putting myself down or others down for imperfection, for weaknesses. And I am done speaking of others as if they are sinners.

It’s not Christian to be full of judgment. “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” I don’t actually recommend calling anyone a “sinner.”

They, and you, and we are much, much more than sinners. You and everyone else on our planet are beautiful, and we were made for a redeeming, righteous, intimate relationship with God.

And close to God we are gold, we are forgiven, we become powerful, we are free, we are good and we are whole.