Very often when I talk about the love of God, some of the first go-to responses are, Well what about repenting from sin? What about conforming to the image of Christ? What about purity and holiness and the narrow road? What about wrath and hell and judgment? What about discipline and submission and obedience? What about selling all your stuff and getting wrecked and radical for Jesus?
I do believe these things are important and they need discussion. A God of love must also be a God of justice, and Jesus had some very hard things to say to us. We can’t skip them. I’m completely against sugarcoating and watering it down – the truth exists regardless of my whimsy. Christianity is not a feel-good fuzzy for tickles and giggles, and it really does require your whole life.
I just think that some of us say sin and hell and holiness with a certain type of glee that’s shamelessly smug and lopsided. It’s with a hasty thoughtlessness that doesn’t consider the nuances of a whole person. Sometimes “sin” has been a person’s entire value, culture, and identity for their entire lives, and to expect a person’s worldview to shift so dramatically in a single sit-down is to play God. We expect people to change and get qualified before walking in the door, when this is the very opposite of how we each got inside – by a divine miracle. You and I don’t make that happen.
My job is that I’d point to Christ, and you would get to a place where he would challenge you on something you had never considered, and whether overnight or over a lifetime, you would solidify your own convictions.
And if we’re not speaking from a grieving, sacrificial, truly concerned heart, then it doesn’t matter how much we “stand for truth.” A jerk is still a jerk, no matter how upstanding we look.
The problem is that it’s easy to detect when someone is satisfied about “sinners going to hell.” I can tell when someone revels in a God who would lightning-blast those pagans and rebels (pagans and rebels, by the way, like you and me). This is a truth that ought to break our hearts. Paul says in Philippians 3 that he writes these things with tears, and Paul says in Romans 9, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people.” That’s pretty crazy, when you think about it. Paul would rather go to hell so that you could be saved. He would rather spend an eternity in a godless inferno so you could have a hint of the beauty of God. That’s the most reckless kind of love I’ve ever heard of – and so many of us are missing it.
The question I have to ask myself is, Am I making it too hard to get to God? Because the only thing I would want someone to wrestle with is Jesus – not me. If I become an obstacle between someone and Jesus, then it’s on me and not him.
I want to be the friend who can graciously unravel layers of self-destructive sinfulness with the precision of a surgeon, not the careless swing of a sledgehammer. It’s how God pulverizes our sin without pulverizing us: because His love has the patience and conviction to walk through our fears and vanity. It’s a balanced tension that confronts our sin with total truth, and loves us into our truest selves with a surgical, steady grace.
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