Going to Idaho to retreat from the world

sinners“You Christians are so judgmental!” is an accusation frequently heard these days.  “Why can’t you just accept people for who they are and let them alone?”   These accusations make me sad and a little glad at the same time.  I do regret the statements that spew from angry, hurting Christians but I stand gladly with Christ and those who, not matter their compassion, refuse to join with those who are in rebellion against God. As our culture drifts further from the Lord and rejects His Word I expect that the rejection and anger against Christians will grow.  The Lord Himself forewarned us that “everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me. But those who endure to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22, NLT)

Given all the conflict, I am tempted to move to some remote town in Idaho and live out my days among those who share my understanding of the world as we wait for the Coming of the Lord. (OK, not really!)

In UnChristian, David Kinnaman writes that his research confirms that people outside of the Church, especially those who are young, view the Church’s positions on most social issues as condemning.  Some Christians think that their only choice is to stop being truthful.  Kinnaman says, “Some Christians respond to outsider’s negativity by promoting a less offensive faith.   The more unpopular parts of Christian teaching are omitted or deemphasized.  They hijack the image of Jesus by portraying Him as an open-minded, big-hearted, and never-offended-anyone moral teacher.  That is an entirely wrong idea about Jesus.  He taught remarkably tough truths about human beings and about sin….   Softening the message of the Gospel is an utterly wrong response to the objections that people raise.” – UnChristian, Baker, 2007

If we comfort rebels against God by falling silent about sins of greed, promiscuity, or selfishness we become complicit in their sin.  While love is our highest aim, love demands that we warn those who are headed for the cliff of destruction.  The truth, as offensive as it is, is the Way to real freedom.  Jesus told the Truth and ran headlong into hatred as a result.  Why do we think that we should be different?

That said, let us remember that we are sometimes unnecessarily offensive.

Few things are more ugly that a person who is quick to point out the sins of others while failing to deal with his own!  The Pharisees, the villians in the Gospels, loved to name sins. Jesus told them the truth!  He said that they hid their own sins behind their indignation.  God made no distinction between the theft, adultery, or blasphemy of “ordinary” sinners and the Pharisee’s sins of pride, greed, and self-righteousness. Jesus did not approve of one or the other. He challenged Pharisees to get right from the inside out, then they would have a platform from which to speak to others.  “Don’t just clean the outside of the cup,” He said, “wash the inside, too.”   How beautiful are the words of a humble Christian who speaks not from some imagined lofty place of perfection but as one who knows he is saved by grace.  He does not beat others down; he lifts them up!

It is offensive to condemn without offering hope for redemption and transformation.   30 years ago, when the issue of abortion was at full boil in the Christian church, many Christians let fear drive the conversation and took the low road. Pro-lifers used incendiary words like ‘baby-killer’  or  ‘murderer.’  Grisly pictures of dead babies were hung to shock and offend.  Abortion is a terrible evil, the taking of an innocent and defenseless life, an act that is abhorrent in the eyes of God.  But it is a sin with context.  Few casually decide to end a pregnancy.  Women in crisis need hope, need love that gives them courage to face the future. So, while speaking truth, I also joined forces with other like-minded Christians to create a center where women could find practical care that would encourage them to choose life for their unborn child. We forbade our staff from using manipulative tactics based in condemnation of fear.  Instead, we made an offer of life, based squarely on the truth.  I am convinced that when we are bold to speak truth, we must complete the story by offering the hope of redemption through Christ Jesus.

The Bible says,   “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14-17, NIV)   Did you notice a phrase that repeats twice?   It is this one:  “Grace and Truth.”   Moses brought the Law, which told the Truth.  With the Law came the knowledge of sin and guilt that separated people from God.   Jesus did not set aside the holy requirements of the Law, but He brought Grace that gives forgiveness and creates the possibility of transformation from the inside out.   Only by His grace are we restored to our Father, from Whom we receive the Spirit who empowers us to be holy.

America is a sinful nation.  Greed separates the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’  Injustice is rampant in our systems.  Racism is making new appearances.  Sexual license steals human dignity in our entertainment, on the Internet, and with a pleasure crazed culture.  We cannot, no matter how much we are hated, wave the flag of surrender and under the guise of ‘love’ fail in our mission to be prophets (God’s spokespersons).Called to be God’s voice, we cannot fall mute.

HOWEVER, our message must be shaped by the grace that is greater than all our sin.

Ponder this today.  This is the word from the Word.  Let’s start with humility, prayers of contrition.  “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NLT)  And continue with a message of saving grace:   “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”  (Romans 5:20-6:2, NLT)

______________

 Miracle In My Heart

 We are called

To be prophets to this nation,

To be the word of God,

In ev’ry situation,

Change my heart,

Change my heart today.

 

 

Who’ll be the salt,

If the salt should lose its flavor?

Who’ll be the salt,

If the salt should lose its flavor?

Change my heart,

Change my heart today.

 

Lord, loose the chains of oppression.

Lord, set the captives free.

Lord, fill my heart with compassion.

Shine Your light, shine Your light,

Shine Your light through me!

 

Work a miracle in my heart!

Work a miracle in my heart!

Work a miracle in my heart!

O Lord, today.

 

Lord, take all my lies

And all of my greed,

Let me be a sacrifice

For those who are in need.

Change my heart,

Change my heart today!

 

Lord, without Your power,

It’s all just good intentions.

Lord, without Your grace

Who could find redemption?

Change my heart,

Change my heart today.

Brian Houston

© 1998, 1999 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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