A False Dichotomy

“If you love me…”

Has anyone said that to you? It’s usually followed by an ultimatum. “If you love me, you’ll let me do…” And if you don’t comply with the person’s request, then you are apparently a loveless monster who only wants to bring pain to others. But God’s people cannot be limited by such narrow-mindedness. Love will at times require difficult things to be said and won’t always come as apparent comfort to the one demanding that love. Those who desire love but don’t want truth are creating a false dichotomy that the Creator of all things would not approve of.

The truth of the Gospel

God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin so that we (all people everywhere who believe) would become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5.21). This is the beautiful truth that is at the very heart of the gospel message. And what does it mean to be God’s righteousness? God has done great things for us; if we believe in His power and Name and trust in His work (not ours) for salvation, then He gives us His righteousness and makes us a part of His Kingdom. No good work can make us more deserving, and no sin can separate Him from those who are truly His.

What message do we preach?

This truth is difficult in light of our immediate context to proclaim this message to those outside the Church. More often than not, a message of sin to be atoned for is seen as judgment and hatred; the message of love and grace is lost on the dying world that needs it the most.

I once had a conversation with a man who, upon finding out that I was in Bible College, defended his reasons for not going to Church and then proceeded to explain how he thought that good churches are ones that let you come and worship no matter what but then let you live your life the way you want the rest of the week. Sadly, this is what many would consider to be “good religion” (despite what James 1.26-27 says about it).

When I think of the message that we proclaim to the dying world, I always think of this:

So I agree that good churches are ones that let you come and worship with them no matter what your background is, but at the same time, Jesus wants to purify the rose. He wants us to be His Righteousness. “Come Just as you are,” cries the King, “but I will make you what you’re meant to be.”

Jesus saves us from separation from the Father, but not because of the good we have done (Eph. 2.8-9).

Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit as a promise of His faithfulness to us (Rom. 8.15-17).

Jesus convicts us of our sin and lovingly calls us to repentance (1 John 1.9).

Jesus gives us the Church for the sake of encouraging our fight against sin (Matt. 18.15-20).

And why does He do this? He wants more and more people to come to Him and be a part of His Kingdom– a Kingdom which will never end!

So yes, to those who would condemn the adulteress woman (John 8.1-11), Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin… throw the first stone…” But He also said to her, “…go, and from now on, sin no more.” Such is our call: bring Christ’s gospel to the lost and remember God’s demand for holiness while we do it.

What’s been done?

When dealing with conflict within the Church we wonder what the opposing parties are doing or have done to work out their problems. So Jack offended Jill by not picking up after himself in the Church kitchen and Jill got mad at him. Tempers flare, and communion plates fly as they start working through the deep seeded problems that they each have with each other. When the pastor steps in to sort it out, he may give them something like, “Five Steps to Working Through Conflict Among Believers”, but they need something deeper than the practical, at least at the onset.

What have you done to fix this? is a question we might ask. But there is a more important one that needs to be answered first: What has God done to fix this? God is a God of order and peace, especially among His people. So what has He done? Does He even care about your conflicts? Yes:

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

God cares about your conflicts so much that He sent Jesus to reconcile us to Himself. And what does that do for us? It makes it possible to be reconciled towards others. So next time you’re enraged towards others in your family or the Church or anyone (!), remember what Jesus has already done about your conflict. He cared enough to die and raise again that we might have victory.