But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. -- Titus 3:4-7
Monday, December 7, 2015
Normally I ignore a lot of stuff I see on the Fakebook, but recently someone I know posted a picture of a church sign that said, “God prefers kind atheists over hateful Christians.”
I have no doubt that many atheists are better people than I can ever be. God certainly doesn’t love me more than those good atheists. He also doesn’t love me less. Does He prefer that I be kind rather than cruel? He does. That’s why we are about to celebrate the Incarnation, the time in history when God became Man and walked among us all the way to Calvary. He came to deliver me from my cruelty and my hatred, my lust and my greed – to deliver me from death.
Do Christians sin? We certainly do, and when we do, we often call into question the value of our faith. We cause the world to wonder what difference there is between Christians and non-Christians. Christ came not to improve our lives but to give us life. Even the kindest, most generous, most forgiving atheist is still dead in his or her trespasses and sins. Is that fair? Yes, it is.
You see, we have all “sinned and come short” of the glory of God. We have all missed the mark in life, and the reason for that is that we are all here in a fallen state. Our sins and errors are not the cause of our fallen state but the result. So, too, when Christ comes into the heart of a person, the good works that begin to flow out of that individual are not a cause of salvation but the result of it.
Jesus came to show us who we are and to offer to us – all of us – His righteousness. The people for whom the gentle and loving Lord Jesus reserved the most ire were the self-righteous, those who thought that they were doing pretty well on their own. They didn’t lie, steal, cheat, kill, or mistreat in a physical way. They just looked down on others, demeaned and derided the “publicans and sinners” around them. They were quick to find fault and to judge. Now, as it happened, those were “religious” people – mostly Pharisees – to whom Jesus spoke. He words, though, are applicable to anyone with the same attitude of pride and self-justification.
The world into which the Son of God was born was a religious world. We live in a secular world, though one clearly enabled and enlightened by Christianity. Our modern-day Pharisees are politicians, academics, celebrities, journalists, etc,, who think themselves more “advanced” than the rest of us and feel the need to help us out of our superstitions. I understand that, and it doesn’t really bother me.
What bothers me is the person who put up that sign. It was, as I said, a church sign, no doubt put up by a church member, someone on the staff, perhaps at the pastor’s request. The idea, I suppose, was to shame the church members into being nicer people. That is wrong. It is a perversion of the gospel, a form of the “social gospel” bullshit that crippled 19th and 20th century Christianity. Jesus Christ did not die on a Roman cross for nice people. He did not rise triumphant over death, hell, and the grave to make us nice.
He came, He died, He rose again to make us sons and daughters of the Most High God, to deliver us from the delusions of the world, the illusions of temptation and the old, sinful nature, to bear away the penalty and power of our sins, release us from bondage and make us the righteousness of God in Him. He came not to conform or reform but to transform.
Caterpillars are not interested in being nice, kind caterpillars. They are born to be butterflies and to soar.