Wondering why some Christians are “open-minded” and others are not. Wondering how it is some Christians see Christ as kind and gentle, loving and forgiving while others see Him as mean and angry, hateful of sin and judgmental? How can people who claim to believe in the same God come out so differently after reading the same Bible and praying to the same Lord?
How can some believe God hates sinners while others believe God loves sinners so much He actually DIED for them? How can some believe God wants Christians to stand up against sin to the point of harming other human beings who happen to sin while others believe they too sin and are just as deserving of the same type of “revenge” against sin?
Why do some Christians feel capable of judging other human beings while others feel entirely unworthy of the task?
Oh Lord, help us to know the Truth so it and You may set us Free. Amen.
Stephen King stirred me with his tweet about the odd behavior of some evangelical Christians — an almost schizophrenic behavior. Supposedly evangelicals believe God is love and know Jesus warned not to prevent children from coming to Him. Jesus said something akin to “better to put a giant grinding stone around your neck and fling yourself into the sea than to keep one of these kids from getting close to Me.” Yet, some evangelical ( or fundamentalist or conservative Christians ) are up in arms to keep destitute, desperate South American children from crossing our borders.
Well, you might argue, that doesn’t keep these kids from coming to Christ. Really? Are you sure about that?
So, let’s look at another story Jesus told.
Remember the poor man who was fell upon by robbers along a road and left for dead? Remember the supposedly decent human beings who walked right by him, not offering to help him in the least? Sounds a bit like these schizophrenic evangelical Christians who — as Paul laments — see themselves in the mirror, turn away and forget what they are supposed to look like.
Now I include myself among evangelical Christians though I am not willing to align myself with those who call themselves “conservative.” Conservative is almost a dirty word. Conservative can sometimes mean — in my mind and in the minds of many many liberal thinking persons — “narrow-minded”, “hateful”, “violent”, “racist”, “wicked” — well I could go on but then I’d be too “conservative” for my taste.
GOD is LOVE.
He doesn’t ask us to judge. He doesn’t ask us to enforce His Laws — oops. Actually the one Law God asks us to enforce is the one that says “Love others as yourself.”
If we love others, then how can we turn our backs on these children? We can’t, not if we are truly Christian.
In one of his many songs, David proclaims – at least in the Wycliffe translation of the Word – that God “loveth mercy and doom.” In parenthesis, the translator adds an alternative version: “[God] loveth righteousness and justice.”
On one hand, “mercy”; on the other “righteousness.” On one hand, “doom”; on the other hand “justice.” Even in the final phrase, on one hand, “mercy”; on the other “love.”
For the word of the Lord is rightful (For the word of the Lord is true); and all his works be (done) in faithfulness. He loveth mercy and doom; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord. (He loveth righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the love of the Lord.)
Imagine God loving “doom.”
If you look around at the state of the world at large, God loving doom is not hard to imagine. Listen to the evening news and doom is all around you – earthquakes, erupting volcanos, tsunamis, rising sea levels, erratic weather patterns, droughts, fires. And this doom does not yet include what people do to you ( or what you do to people… )!
So, where’s the evidence that God loves mercy?
The evidence for God’s mercy is less compelling, you might say. But, I would argue the evidence of God’s mercy is the doom inflicted and endured by Him on the Cross. “All [God’s] works be done in faithfulness.”
“This, then, is the judgment” writes John, the beloved one. The judgment is that those who do evil avoid the Light because they hate the Light while those who do good seek out the Light because their deeds are done by God Himself. The Light exposes evil and those who do evil things hide from exposure.
And those who do good discover that those good things can not originate from themselves; instead the good emerges from the Light Himself.
19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”
Exasperated, Paul wonders at the Galatians’ desire to place themselves back under the yoke of the Law. He worries over them as they fall victim to Judaizers who wish them circumcised, observant of certain days and specific customs. Paul says “it is always good to be enthusiastic about good;” but he also says he is “suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” Paul strongly suggests to the church at Galatia that observing the Law does not and can not make them any more Christ-like!
15 What happened to this sense of being blessed you had? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They are enthusiastic about you, but not for any good. Instead, they want to isolate you so you will be enthusiastic about them. 18 Now it is always good to be enthusiastic about good—and not just when I am with you. 19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. 20 I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you. 21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law?
Paul then tells them a story. He reminds the Galatians of the children of the free woman, Sarah and the slave woman, Hagar. Both children come from Abraham, but only one is the true heir.
Rid yourself of the yoke of slavery and take up the cloak of freedom in Christ.
I have a few questions:
- Who seeks God?
- For those who seek Him, what is required of us? What makes us acceptable to God?
- When we seek Him, is it miracles and signs we desire?
After Jesus feeds the 5,000 or perhaps it’s the time He feeds the 4,000, those who follow after Him ask similar questions:
28 “What can we do to perform the works of God?” they ask.
29 Jesus replies, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.”
30 “What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?” they ask. “What are You going to perform?
“I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” (John 6: 26-27)
And Yahweh said to me again,
“Go, love a woman
who has a lover and is committing adultery,
just like the love of Yahweh for the children of Israel.
Out in the world at large are two seemingly opposing views of God: one view is that God is so holy that He hates sin and desires to destroy all those who commit sin; the other view is that God is so loving that He loves sinners and desires to save all who commit sin. These two views of God are correct. The paradox is in the story of Hosea asked by God to marry an adulterous woman to show forth both sides of the same coin – God’s holiness and God’s love.
God calls sin what it is; that is, sin. God clearly tells Hosea the woman is guilty and to marry her despite her guilt.
God also loves sinners. God clearly tells Hosea that He loves the children of Israel despite the fact they are as guilty as the adulterous woman.
If God doesn’t hate sin, why does He punish Jesus, His only Son? If God doesn’t love sinners, why does Jesus leave Heaven to come to earth for that punishment? Why does God bother to die on the Cross unless He loves sinners?
And so, God calls us to two sides of the same coin. He calls us to hate and avoid sin while simultaneously loving and approaching the sinner.
So much of the good news is contained in the first ten verses of the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. He says clearly that we are “declared righteous,” that “we have peace with God,” that “we have obtained access” to “this grace in which we stand.” We may know with certainty that “this hope will not disappoint us.” Why? “Because God’s love has been poured out.” We have been given the Holy Spirit. And all this was given to us “while we were still helpless.” “Christ died for the ungodly.” That’s you and me! This willing death of God’s Son “proves” God’s love for us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Therefore, “we will be saved through Him from wrath.” After all, says Paul, if Christ died for us while we were His enemies, “how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His Life!”
Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that,but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance,4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! 9 Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!
“And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He was speaking with a woman; yet no one said, What are You seeking? or, Why are You speaking with her?”
Jesus’ disciples are shocked. They are downright flabbergasted to find Jesus speaking with a woman. They are amazed that not only does He speak to a woman; He speaks to a Samaritan woman, a woman of mixed ancestry, a woman outside Judaism as they know and observe it. On top of their shock, they don’t bother to ask Him why He speaks to this woman. They don’t appear to care; they only care that Jesus is doing something unacceptable, out of fashion, and politically incorrect.
The disciples don’t care that Jesus is physically thirsty. They don’t care that as He seeks to quench His own thirst, He recognizes the woman’s spiritual thirst and her need for what Jesus is – the Living Water.
I imagine Jesus is scolded by one or another of the disciples, perhaps by Judas Iscariot, the betrayer or by Peter, His defender on the night He is taken for crucifixion.
The disciples scold Jesus because they only care that He is doing the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place with the wrong type of person. His disciples judge by appearances rather than by substances.
David, an adulterer and murderer, boldly claims:
I am ready, and I am not troubled; to keep thy commandments. (I am ready, and I have not delayed, to obey thy commandments.)
What gives David his confidence? Is his confidence in himself? Is he honest when he claims he is ready? Does he correctly assess himself when he says, “I am not troubled; to keep thy commandments”?
In what, in whom is David’s confidence?