With all that is going on in the world, all the enemies that seem to be at the door, it amazes me that there are a large number of people who forget that we are, as Christians, supposed to pray for those who have fallen in sin.
What brought this all to mind, beyond the atrocities committed by Hamas, ISIS and their ilk, was a recent situation that was brought to my attention. It involved an old friend, but I am going to change names to protect this person and his/her family. I will call this person Alex and while I know it will be awkward to read, I am not going to indicate the gender of my friend. I knew Alex over 30 years ago when I was a teen. Alex and I were good friends and Alex was a support for me when I was dealing with some serious family issues. Alex comes from a Christian family. In short, Alex was, and I’m sure still is on many levels, a good person. I haven’t been in touch with Alex since Alex graduated from our high school, however, my mother has been in touch with Alex’s family over the years.
I recently found out via the local news that Alex had been arrested for a crime that many would consider disgusting. No one was actually touched, but were victimized by being “peeped” at in what should be a private space. I was also disgusted, trust me. I was also shocked. Had it been any other person, I would have thought to myself “that’s horrible, what a terrible person!” and dismissed the whole situation. I wouldn’t have given it a thought to pray for the perpetrator.
This is different. I knew Alex. This wasn’t the Alex I knew, though, and it made me sad for Alex and for Alex’s family. I know they must be absolutely devastated and embarrassed. This was NOT how they raised their child. So I did what I thought was a good idea and asked a prayer group of friends to pray for Alex. The reactions I received from them was what saddened me, and brought me to my keyboard.
One friend absolutely repudiated praying for Alex. In so many words they said that while they would pray for Alex’s victims, they couldn’t bring themselves to pray for Alex. It was all about the level or degree of sin and that some were so bad that the sinners didn’t deserve our prayer. Not the specific words used, but that was the connotation behind them. Another friend said that the friend who couldn’t bring themselves to pray for Alex shouldn’t “feel guilty” for feeling that way. Save one, the rest were silent, and while I hope they did pray for Alex, Alex’s family and victims, I have a feeling that only the family and victims were the ones prayed for.
It comes back to that idea that there is a level or degree of sin and some sins are too great to “deserve” prayer for the sinner. That is wrong. I will get to the Scripture that tells us that, but on a most basic level it comes down to this: Christ didn’t judge that some people’s sins were so heinous that they didn’t deserve his mercy or forgiveness. Christ died for ALL sins and for ALL sinners.
Scripture calls us, as followers of Christ, to forgive sin and to pray for sinners. Luke calls us to “love your enemies” and “do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27); as does Matthew (Matthew 5:44); Romans 12:14 says to bless those who curse you and Romans 12:19-21 tells us to overcome evil with good.
Want more verses? Try Matthew 5:46-47; Luke 6:35; Luke 6:27-36; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; and Hebrews 12:1. Truly, though, it comes down to these very important three:
Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners. No one is better than anyone else.
Mark 12:31: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” In God’s eyes, we are all neighbors. His commandment is that we love each other and pray for each other.
James 4:17: “So whoever knows the right things to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” We all know the right thing to do is to keep each other in prayer. Aren’t those who stumble and stray from the “right things” no matter what they are, in need of prayer? Failing to pray for others is sin.
Finally, James 5:13-16:
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Pray for each other so that you may each be healed. Now, while I do understand that Scripture does, at times, speak to this sin is greater than that sin, what all of this really comes down to is it’s not up to us.
Some judge the proportion of the sinfulness of others to make themselves feel better: “I’m so much better than Alex because the only sin I committed was lying to my kids the other day” Really? You look down your nose at others in the same way the Pharisees looked down on those they considered less than they were. Christ really didn’t like that! I think he called them a “brood of vipers” and said that they were fit for hell.
So, while some feel better by looking down on those they see as more sinful than they are, they are forgetting that we are called to love our neighbors, no matter what they do, and to pray for them, no matter what they do. Pray for each other so that you may be healed.
No one said being a Christian was easy.