If we suddenly found ourselves standing before God in heaven, then how would we answer these questions: “What did you do with me” and “what did you do with the people I put in your life”? Can we say that we have obeyed God’s commands to love him, with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40)? It is never wrong to love people, holy or vile – family, friends, co-workers, sinners, enemies, and strangers. Do we believe this? Have we obeyed? If not, then we have missed the purpose of our existence: giving and receiving love.
We love God by keeping his commandments (John 14:15, 21-24, 15:10; 1 John 2:3-6). These commands include loving fellow believers, sinners, strangers, and enemies (Matthew 5:44, 22:37-40; Romans 13:8-10, Hebrews 13:1, 1 John 2:9-11). True love for God also produces faith, giving, holiness, obedience, prayer, and service. We say yes to what God loves and no to what he hates (James 1:27, 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17). If we love other believers, then we will minister to them, work and pray with them, and share their burdens (Romans 12:6-15, Galatians 6:2, Hebrews 13:3). True love for sinners is sharing Jesus Christ with them and praying for their salvation, since evangelism is the heartbeat of God (Matthew 28:19-20). Finally, if we love strangers and enemies, then we will bless and pray for them, as well as show them charity (5:44-45).
Loving sinners requires both resolve and compassion, not self-righteous piety or mushy emotion that ignores holiness. Jesus’ love isn’t cheap. He tells people, “Go and sin no more” (John 5:14, 8:11). But he also meets them in their brokenness instead of avoiding them. We must not abandon people either, but stand with them in their hour of need. Jesus loved us extravagantly on the cross. Can we not love sinners the same way, in the power of the Spirit? A dying world is waiting to see such love displayed.