Martin Luther once said in a sermon, “When a prince sees his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor….The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor.”*
Neither Luther nor the words of Scripture make any distinction about the worthiness of the neighbor. We’re simply to use our gifts for the good of all unconditionally. This has relevance to comments I’ve heard from some who, in the name of Christ, say they will not render some service to those who are living in certain open sins. They state that to do so would be to condone the sin. This is a dangerous line of thinking that can easily put us in the place of God as judge. The truth is, if we were not serving those living in sin, we would be serving NO ONE!
By contrast, consider the unconditional love that Jesus shows for all people. He died for all, even though we are all unworthy of such a sacrifice for us. We’ve been called by God to serve all people with the same kind of unconditional love. We may be the only way they will ever see and learn of Jesus’ love.
Yes, we don’t want to condone behavior that jeopardizes someone’s spiritual life. At the same time, is it any better to ignore such people or reject them in a way that will most likely encourage them to continue in their spiritually lost condition? It’s good to wrestle over this. It’s good to consider what truly is best for our neighbors when we look at them with the unconditionally loving eyes of Jesus. My prayer is that we can always let grace and love show forth to all people in God’s way.
*Martin Luther, “Sermon in the Castle Church at Weimar” (25 October 1522, Saturday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity), in D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, 60 vols. (Weimar: Herman Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1883–1980) 10/3:382.