In my previous two posts it may seem like I am advocating a free for all or as some might say, “Going soft on sin.” This could not be further from the truth. If one draws such a conclusion to what I have written, then though they may see, they are blinded by their own sin without even realising it. They key here to apprehending the truth of the gospel is our own understanding of who we believe Jesus Christ is. There has to be a careful examination of how we do this so that we can take the wheel clamps off the gospel vehicle and allow it to go forward under its own power. There are two many ministers in established churches who are trying to assert their own power of what the implications of the gospel are within their own church communities and who can and cannot partake in its benefits. It is usually through the filter of ethical and moral platforms the gospel is structured. This makes the concern of moral conduct and a judicial interpretation of what is deemed good and what is deemed bad take priority over the gospel. Subsequently, people are measured against these frameworks to determine who is in and who is out and whether or not the Christian is meeting the high moral/ethical standards. The variety of laws vary from church to church and from denomination to denomination. There is more infighting and finger pointing within the body as well as a highly critical view of the moral standards of society at large. Adopting such a method of Christian living severely obstructs and erodes who God is as He was disclosed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Many of the ancient church fathers believe the Gospel of John was a cut above all the other books. It is believed this gospel brought the synoptics and the epistles into the right context and thereby became a kind of hermeneutic for the interpretation of the whole New Testament. If this is true then there are quite astonishing implications for how we are to understand the gospel especially in the light of the gospel of John. It is certainly something that needs to be taken into consideration by those who make the moral/ethical platform of the greatest concern. The encounters with Jesus Christ were quite comical in respect to the calibre of people’s characters depicted. Take Nicodemus for instance. He was a well educated Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin but he could not recognise nor understand who it was he was speaking with. Jesus was talking in plain terms that the Incarnation must happen if there is to be a rebirth of the entire human race. He was the One who was born “from above” and as a result Nicodemus is “born again.” Yahweh was right before His eyes and the Spirit was now flesh speaking to Him. Jesus was the “sound” of the Spirit but Nicodemus knew not where the sound was coming from and did not know where it was going. Jesus told Nicodemus what was to come and the reason why He was sent. Yet, Nicodemus just didn’t get it.
Now in Chapter 4 Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. I believe this woman was trying to play Jesus as she had done with all the men in her life. Perhaps she even flaunted herself and flirted with Him. When she was put in her place and Jesus told her about the things of the Spirit and worship, the penny dropped and she could hear and she could see. On the one hand, we have Nicodemus who was part of the exclusive “in” group who could not see nor hear. On the other hand, we have the Samaritan woman who was on the “outer” group and considered as unclean, who saw and heard and recognised that God was before her. Nicodemus, though considered upright in his community was blind by the sin of self-righteousness and could not see. The Samaritan woman who was an outcast of Jewish society and probably an outcast in her own Samaritan community having a double whammy of sin, was blind but now could see. The whole moral/ethical dilemma was now turned on its head. This Samaritan woman could see and was free from her sin while Nicodemus who thought he could see but his sin remained.
If we go back to the first chapter of John to verse 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” I have quoted this verse many times to various people within the evangelical circles. I quote it, and they don’t hear it. When I do quote it, they try to disclaim it by other passages in the Bible. Now if it is true Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world(and not just Christians), then why do we go on about sin? If we try and skirt around this verse and say something different, then we are implying this verse is a mistake. The simple fact of the matter is this: The Jewish establishment who had been taught over thousands of years the ways and works of Yahweh, and had the privilege of being chosen by Him, did not recognise Him when He appeared as the Man Jesus Christ. He performed miracle after miracle vindicating the claims He made regarding Himself only to have the establishment more and more determined to kill Him. A man born blind was healed and Lazarus was raised from the dead, two things that no other in human history have ever been able to do, resulted in the plot to kill Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at John 9:35-41 and see how Jesus defines sin:
“Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
After the blind man was put out of the Synagogue, there were Pharisees for one reason or another who were hanging around Jesus who now met up with the one He healed. Perhaps they saw that what happened to the man born blind at the Synagogue was a just thing. One might infer that the Pharisees believe that the actions of Jesus was deemed bad. Instead we know Jesus had restored this man’s eyesight according to Yahweh’s idea of justice and the Pharisees could not see that and therefore ‘their sin remained.’
Whatever the character of the people who encountered Jesus during His sojourn on earth, Jesus never drove anyone away. The Jews of the establishment could not see that this Man could be sent from God because He fellowshipped with those who were outcasts of society such as the widows, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and ate and drank with them. This was God enfleshed in our very humanity engaging with people showing us how it is He loves with real human words and real human actions. He did not preach morality. Wherever the oppressed were, Jesus was standing right with them. He preached eternal life! His protest were aimed at those who tried to undermine the work He was doing, the very same work He saw the Father doing. The truth from the very core of His Being who was of the very same Being with the Father was on display as bright as the shining light of the Son. But those who claimed to be for “God,” hated Him because of the Light He shone. They much preferred the darkness because of all the fringe benefits of power, manipulation and control over the masses. These were the powers and principalities who plotted to kill the Lord of glory.
The Jewish establishment could not understand Jesus engaging with the inferior dregs of society who had no criteria to be with such a Man sent by God. He appeared to have a universal acceptance of people that was so contrary to the tradition of the Jewish institution. The Sanhedrin were so frustrated the Jesus would not comply with the way things were done according to their interpretation of the Law. They had no idea Jesus was in fact the author of all their sources where these sources pointed directly to Him. This continued to be a problem for the Church as it ventured out of Israel and into the Mediterranean world. Other belief systems had their strict criteria for entering into their fold. They were astonished to find that people included in the Christian sect has no criteria whatsoever. This was particularly so amongst the Gnostics, the Pneumatikois, otherwise known as the spiritually elite. They had stringent moral and ethical criteria for which one had to abide by if they were to be included. Christians appeared to throw that all out of the window and include everyone on the basis of trusting Jesus Christ was God enfleshed and risen from the dead. There were eventually given the derogatory term of Kathilikois, or the universals. Of course, this terms was gratefully received by the Church. In its original context, Catholic, accurately described the kind of people who were included in the sect. Unfortunately, this term has been hijacked and turned into something more in line with Gnostics, Pneumatikois of old. Furthermore, this Gnosticism has also infiltrated much of evangelicalism.
Through the centuries, the church by and large have endeavoured to use their power and position to push the moral/ethical agenda onto their masses and to point out the immorality and unethical actions of society at large as a priority over sharing the gospel. In more recent times, there have been many incidences where certain individuals and even groups of individuals have acted in a highly questionable manner that has brought the whole church into disrepute. Ww hear media announcements from various mainline denominations where official statements are made regarding their positions on certain ethical/moral issues. The impression is given that the Church is more ethically and morally pure than the rest of society and thereby they are the best ones to advise the wider community what is right and wrong. This may not be their intention but it is certainly society’s perception. It appears we are right back to where it all started 2000 years ago.
I have not met any Christian who pushes the moral/ethical agenda who have missing hands are missing eyes. Jesus spoke of what we should do if our hand causes us to sin or our eyes cause us to sin, ie that is, cut it off or gouge it out! The reality is, our hands do cause us to sin and our eyes cause us to sin but no one does anything about our own propensity to sin. Our concern for ethics and morality will never ever drive us to lop off our hands and gouge out our eyes. If our concern is is non-violence, I have yet to find anyone who will sacrifice their ability to be violent by cutting out our greatest weapon in our body, the tongue. I still have my hands and my eyes are still in their sockets. I still have my tongue. I know how much I sin. However, I know how much more I am forgiven and I trust Jesus is the One who has taken away not just my sin but the sin of my neighbour as well as every single person on this planet. Therefore I have to look at people not through the spectacles of sin but through the Holy eyes of Jesus Christ. It is easy enough to point out the sin in any person who stands before me because I am such an expert when it comes to sinful behaviour. It is so easy to be critical of the violent nature in others when I am inherently violent myself. It is so easy to question ethics and morality when I am so unethical and immoral. It takes a sinner to know a sinner. We are all in the same boat. Just because we trust Jesus as our Lord and Saviour does not mean we are out of that boat. Rather, it is Jesus who has jumped into our boat and has transformed the image of the whole boatload and recast it in Himself. What we have received is a gift. I see it. I see Him. I would like the rest of the boatload to see it by showing them who they are in Him, Jesus Christ. I see no other way to look at anyone but through the incarnate and resurrected Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the outpouring of God’s love to the entire human race. It was while every single sinner was so very far away from God that God Himself died for us and for our sake.
Jesus Christ is the only human being who is in a position to adjudicate on moral and ethical matters. How does He do this? He forgives us and saves us from ourselves and brings us into the life of the Triune God through Himself. What does He ask us to do? “Love one another.” but first, “Let Me love you.” When we let Him love us then we allow the Truth of His work to actualise within us and to see things in an entirely different way. We realise the reality of Christ in us that is in a very intimate, personal and subjective way. We feel the presence of the Spirit who teaches and lead us into the Truth of Jesus Christ. When we begin to understand what it means for God the Son to become incarnate, then we also realise the objective significance of our personal actualisation of Christ in us. As immoral and as unethical we are, Christ is in us all. Morality and ethics are absent from the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is first and foremost. What kills the spirit of the Gospel is the insistence on Church’s focus on ethics and morality. Are we willing to take the risk and set people free to be loved as we are loved? We treat people with the same level of dignity as we would our own family members. We show a concern for their welfare as we do our own brothers and sisters. I am very protective of my family as I should be with all people. We love with the hands of Jesus Christ. We stand with those who are oppressed. The way I see many ethical and moral debates is in some cases, the people who are at the centre of these debates or often marginalised and even oppressed. I have spoken to a number of people from the LBGTQI community. The one thing that appears to be common with many of them is how much they suffered while at school, by their family, by certain members of the community, in some workplaces just for being targeted just for being different. Especially during school, many of these people are thrown together as a result of the constant bullying when they had not even worked out their own sexual identity. For some, the fear of further ostracising because of the fear of disclosing to people they are gay has led them to suicide. How can we as a Christian community throw our hat in the ring and lend a hand to further persecution of people with a sexual orientation different to ours? Unless we are prepared to ostracise all people who fail to meet whatever standard of moral or ethical viewpoint, then we have no business to single out the LGBTQI etc community and point out the so-called immorality of them all. At the end of the day, justifying any act of persecution for whatever reason is a sick perversion of the gospel.
In our Western culture, the hardest thing to do is to look at a person from the point of view of Jesus Christ. Our ethical and moral framework based on worldly arbitrated interpretations of law and gospel is so ingrained into our Christian culture. Morality and ethics was put to death on the Cross. With each person we meet, the gospel is the ultimate “nevertheless” over and above the question of morality and ethics. It is the good news from within that is from the One who is far above our opinions and interpretations. Jesus Christ is the ultimate, “YES,” that is so far above all morality and ethics and whispers, “You are Included!” deep within our souls. When we clearly see who is in the person we encounter, our words to them should echo the affirmations of the Spirit of Christ in them that they are a Child of God in whom the Father’s soul delights. This reality in them may awaken them to the truth of the way things really are to the degree that their whole world changes as the truth of Christ in them is unveiled. Is this truth is unveiled in them, then they will see the truth of Christ unveiled in all people around them.