questions: cheering or chilling? (part 3)

in our verse-by-verse trek through the gospel of john that started two-weeks ago, we have decided to include something a little unusual: a q & a component.  my tech guys throw an online poll onto the end of my media presentation so people can text questions in real-time.  thus far, it has been a blast and we’ve gotten some great questions.  today, i want to share one more.

So, Jesus loves us unconditionally.  Then why is it so wrong to be gay or a criminal or do what you want to do?

first, let me say that i was delighted with this question.  when i engage non-christians outside the church setting, this is precisely the type of honest sentiment i encounter.  i was thrilled to be able to deal with this openly in a church meeting–i saw it as a teachable moment (and church people need all the teachable moments they can get!).

i dealt with the question by…

1.  explaining that the love of jesus is, indeed, unconditional.  jesus loves gays and criminals (and even preachers) perfectly and without reservation.  the bible teaches that jesus saw us in our sinful state and chose to die for us (romans 5:8).  if you have a moment, i encourage you to read a parable written by tony york that illustrates the unconditional nature of jesus’ love for us.

2.  pointing out that a loving god hates sin.  god labels certainly activity as “sin” if it is harmful to us, and he prohibits us from indulging in sin.  and he is not ambiguous about sin or his disdain of it.  if you think about it, god’s attitude toward sin actually validates his claim to love us unconditionally.  god demands that we stay away from things that may potentially destroy us: not just spiritually, but physically and emotionally as well.  like a loving father.

i don’t mean to read too much into the question, but i understand why many (perhaps most) people outside the church have perverted views of god.  they see him as angry and judgmental, and we (the church) have reinforced that skewed perspective by our behavior.  i’m not claiming that the damage can be undone, but we might be able to do some good if we would simply acknowledge our brokenness, own our issues, and embrace grace.

so what say you?  have something to add?

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6 thoughts on “questions: cheering or chilling? (part 3)

  1. i’m having some trouble lately with what seems to be a relatively universal definition of sin as being that which harms us. i’m not sure how i feel about that.

    first, i don’t like the fact that mankind has any real bearing on what is and what is not sin. i feel like it either is or isnt because of who God is.

    but mostly, i think my frustration stems from the greek word, and what seems to make the most sense to me in scripture. i think sin is better defined as “missing the mark” — as in God has set a mark of what true and abundant life is, and when we fail to live into that reality we’ve sinned. that means sin isn’t necessarily about what is harmful, but could be a result of something that was harmful. i think failing to have joy in my life, and a tendency to worry is sin. i think not sharing the gospel with others is sin. and so on.

    i do realize those things could be defined as harmful to us, but that seems to be more a by-product than a criterion in and of itself. but i say all of this while not completely sure of my thoughts. they are just that… thoughts.

    • Good thoughts.. maybe think of it this way. All sin has harm in the spiritual capacity because all sin separates us from God. While we don’t lose our salvation, once we have become His children, there is still the matter of dealing with sin through repentance because it does harm to our relationship.

      • thanks, tony. that actually is similar to how i’ve found myself wording it lately… when attempting to “bridge the gap” between my understanding of sin and others’. meaning they really want to hold on to that phrasing, “sin is when you do that which would harm you” — and i want to let them.

        though really i’d prefer to acknowledge that sin is harmful to us (at least in terms of separating us from God) because it is sin. rather than the opposite, that sin is sin because it is harmful.

        maybe just semantics.

    • i would agree with you in principle, brett. the reformed side of my brain insists that man exists for the glory of god and everything short of that is sin…”missing the mark” if you want to invoke the greek (although i find that patently unfair).

      now, i’m not trying to defend myself, but…

      my answer was aimed at someone in my sunday meeting who is probably unregenerate. i was simply trying to convey that god is not the “angry judge whose sole purpose is to make sure we don’t have any fun” he is made out to be, and to affirm the idea that he loves all people unconditionally.

      by the way, i appreciate your “just thoughts.” keep ’em coming!

      • randy, i kind of figured our thoughts would be somewhat similar. and you’ve got to let me use the one greek word i remember…

        and my comment was less in response to what you said and more because i was reminded of something that made me think of something else, etc. my mind wanders.

  2. Randy,

    Would suggest another book;

    “Who told you that you were naked?” by John Jacob Raub (was a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani here in Kentucky) Thomas Merton’s homeplace for almost thirty years

    This book is a response to Gn 3:10 when Adam responded to God’s call “Where are you?”

    and Adam said “I heard you in the garden, but I was afraid, for I am naked.”

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