Monday, March 2, 2015

Please stop pretending Jesus was a jerk.

The Gospel message is clear: God loves us, even in our sin, and gave His only Son to die our death so that we may share in His life. This is the most important message any individual can possibly receive in their life: in spite of your sin, God loves you and gave Himself up for you, to restore your life and give you a share in His own, if you choose it and will it by turning from sin and accepting grace in exchange.

God forgives. God forgives. God forgives.

But that seems to be second to another, false message to many Christians today:

You're not good enough. You're not perfect enough. You're flawed, so you're not accepted by us.

Setting aside the fact that this is the opposite of the Gospel, allow me to translate a famous Gospel story into a 21st century Christian Facebook thread:

When the Pharisees saw that Jesus associated with sinners and tax collectors, they were totes scandalized and asked His disciples, "Why does your teacher dine with sinners?" To which the disciples replied, "Ugh, right? What the hell? Doesn't He know He's supposed to tell them to go and sin no more and never find Himself the least bit associated with them until they've become completely perfect by some impossible means apart from being brought to His mercy and healing? Doesn't He know He's more demanding than He pretends to be? What about 'Go and sin no more,' right?"

During Jesus' time, to eat a meal with someone meant to associate yourself not only with their company but with them as a sort of facet of your life and identity. The Pharisees would never have dared to share a table or a meal with sinners. But Jesus did. And they judged Him for it...hard.

Why did they judge Him? Simple: He associated with sinners. He entertained their company and accepted their invitations into their homes. And the Pharisees lost their freakin' minds.

A trend I've observed in recent Christian failtempts (fail+attempt, it's like "that's so fetch," it's gonna be a thing) at evangelization is an OBSESSION *twitch* with pointing out that JESUS-TOLD-THE-WOMAN-CAUGHT-IN-ADULTERY-TO-GO-AND-SIN-NO-MORE!!!!!!!11oneone

As if the most important takeaway from the passage is His rebuke!


This passage is GROUNDBREAKING! We don't even appreciate the scandal involved, the audacity of Jesus to respond the way He did to the situation. Despite apparently popular misunderstanding (or at least, application), the story does not go this way:

"The law says we should stone such a woman...what do you say?"

It goes this way:

At first, Jesus doesn't say anything; He draws something in the dirt. When He's questioned again, He gives one of His most famous responses: "Let the one among you without sin cast the first stone." One by one, the accusers leave, until finally the woman is left alone with the Lord.

"Where are they who accuse you?" He asks her. We can only assume her voice was weak and fragile and frightened: "There is no one."

And then, Jesus gives what I firmly believe is the most fundamental piece of the passage: "Neither do I condemn you." He follows with, "Go, and sin no more."

WELL HOW TERRIBLE! He kept that "Go and sin no more" bit for AFTER saving her from being judged and scolded and killed, and then had the NERVE to tell her He didn't condemn her! Didn't He realize she hadn't even repented yet? If she had, it sure wasn't publicly -- leaving her totally open to and available for judgment! What is this tenderness, mercy, love, compassion? This isn't the real Jesus!!!!

Oh. Wait.

This is the Jesus people ignore, because they want to use Jesus as something to beat people over the head with who sin. Who aren't perfect. Who sin differently than they do.

"Go and sin no more" is undeniably an important and irreplaceable piece of salvation, of meeting Jesus. But note that it comes after forgiveness. After healing. After being saved from death.

"Go and sin no more" is an invitation. It's an invitation to come and live. "Go and sin no more" is only possible for someone who has encountered and been enabled by the grace of God. "Go and sin no more" deliberately follows forgiveness and healing.

This woman was so touched by Jesus' compassion that she turned her whole life around; it was His mercy and tenderness and care for her as a human being that brought her to receive "Go and sin no more" in awe. Her obedience was not brought about by a rebuke, or a scolding; her obedience was the result of having been loved so much.

As Jesus' disciples, our job is to carry people to Jesus, just as the friends of the paralytic carried him to the house where Jesus was. Simply going around spouting "Go and sin no more!" does no good for anyone. Stop telling people to "read the next verse," and consider reading the whole passage. Let yourself be caught up in awe at the majesty of God's compassion and tenderness; His deep concern for sinners, particularly those who are judged.

There's another story of a sinful woman in the Gospels. A woman known to be a sinner comes to Jesus and washes His feet with her hair and tears. Simon Peter is aghast, and asks Jesus why He is letting a sinner touch Him. Perhaps we could put this quote of Jesus to memory, and conform our lives accordingly:

"The one who has been forgiven much, loves much."

Let's act like it.

1 comment:

  1. The tall poppy syndrome cut short by our loving Saviour