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.

Jesus talked about the crane

I know it wasn’t you. But it was someone you know. Someone in the maddening crowd of social media-ites posted something about God’s judgment when the crane toppled over on Saturday killing over 100 people in Mecca and injuring many, many more. I know, because that is the first time I read about it. Someone (I don’t recall who) compared it with 9/11 and said it was God’s judgment for Islam’s actions 14 years ago.

The gospel of Jesus is opposed to this ultra-right-wing-conservatism that blames every bad thing that happens in the world on someone’s sin (cf. Pat Robertson after the Haiti quake).

What Jesus said about it 2000 years ago

Luke 13.1-5 (emphasis mine)

There were some present at that very time who asked (Jesus) about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

To be sure. There are plenty of examples in Scripture where direct, physical punishment occurs for sin (2 Kings 5.20-27; Acts 5.1-11; Acts 12.20-25). But the first inclination of Christ’s heart is compassion for those who suffer from seemingly meaningless pain. And through this, He ultimately desires that every Muslim, Jew, and Atheist (and everyone in between) come to repentance and follow Him as Lord and Savior.

They are no worse sinners than we, and daily deserve our prayers and compassion.

“… Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” — 1 Timothy 1.15-16