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The Same Jesus

 I’ve continued to ponder my recent post on Tolerance or Truth, and the blog that started it all at John Shore’s page.  Perhaps this phrase will make you mad, but I can’t tolerate your sin.  No follower of Christ should ever tolerate sin – theirs, or anyone else’s!  I can deal with your unbelief.  I can handle your doubts.  I will face your criticism.  I will field your questions.  I will not apply the Bible conditionally.  I will not water-down the Gospel to suit your cultural tolerances. I will not shift a single word of the truth to accommodate your modern ethics.  I will not tolerate your sin, I can’t do it!  Jesus didn’t tolerate sin, and neither will I.  (By the way, presenting a watered down version of the Gospel that is filled with half-truths for the sake of evangelism is contrary to the life Jesus led.)

 

I began to look (again) at the life of Jesus as described in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  This time with an eye toward understanding how Jesus reacted to sin.  If my requirement as a Christian is to emulate the life of Jesus, I certainly have some ground to make up. I know two things for sure: 

 

First, Christ had tremendous compassion for people.  Second, Christ never said that sin was OK.

 

I am finding way too many people today who want the compassionate Jesus, but don’t want the Jesus who is calling them to repent.  Folks, the Jesus who called the Pharisees ‘a brood of vipers,’ is the same Jesus who healed the 10 lepers.  One minute he is raising Lazarus from the dead, the next minute he is condemning the religious leaders for their piety.  His whole purpose on Earth was to live so that he could die.  On the cross he demonstrated his hatred of sin and his love for you at the same time.  Jesus death was the only way to restore man unto God.  It still is the only way. 

 

Giving up one’s life for another is love.  Giving one’s life for all of humanity is true love.  Giving up one’s life for a sinner is amazing, compassionate love.  Jesus lived his life knowing the ‘end game.’ He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the poor, and encouraged the weak.  He crossed ethnic and racial bounds to challenge the pious and comfort the poor.   In his short time on Earth, he lived in such a manner to give us an example to follow each and every day of our lives.

 

But, Jesus’ life was not about the miracles.  He was outraged by sin and called everyone to repentance — everyone.  He drew everyone unto himself to forgive them and free them from a life of sin.  I cannot find one account of Jesus telling anyone that their ‘sin’ was OK.  If I am intolerant because I love you enough to tell you the truth, then so be it.  If you want to deny the truth, feel free.  Do not ask me to adjust the truth to accommodate you.  I can’t do it. 

 

In the end, you have to get out there and get your hands dirty.  You have to be willing to serve others.  You have to be willing to give of yourself, sacrificially.  You have to build a relationship with God and rely solely on his strength as you have compassion for others.  Only then will you be in a position to call others to turn away from their sin.  When you humble yourself before men, you will gain tremendous power to judge their sin and encourage them to turn from it.  Jesus was never afraid to call a sin a sin.  He was never afraid to call a sinner a sinner.  Neither am I.  Are you?

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14 Responses

  1. Very good post! Addresses one of the most PIVOTAL issues in the Christian church today. No wonder people see us as “irrelevant”… we have nothing holy to offer them…

  2. The irony is that the longer this goes on, the less people will want anything holy from us and the more ‘irrelevant’ God becomes. We have to pursue holiness and then demand it.

  3. “First, Christ had tremendous compassion for people. Second, Christ never said that sin was OK.”

    Isn’t telling the truth in love tha calling of every believer? And if I read the Apostle Paul correctly, SIN is the issue prior to salvation and still a big issue after salvation – our old nature is in bondage to sin, our new nature free from that bondage. We still live with a body ‘trained by sin’ after salvation and do battle, as Paul describs in Romans.

    Good post!

  4. Given your focus on “sin”, I am interested to get your thoughts on how you define it.

    To me it’s more a matter of perspective. When my 3-year old proudly presented her mommy with a bouquet of flowers picked from the neighbor’s garden, I couldn’t really punish her. We gave her a big hug and a thank you for her loving heart. Now if she does it again, after being asked not to, our reaction might be a little different, but that’s my point – it’s all perspective.

    Jesus doesn’t say that sin is OK, but he does touch on the subject in John 15:22, “They would not have been guilty of sin if I had not come and spoken to them; as it is, they no longer have any excuse for their sin.”

    I question if we have the appropriate perspective to judge our neighbor’s sins or decide whether they are tolerable. God seems to look at sin in context. I’m not saying that we should start letting people off death row, but I question if your honest interpretation of the truth is any more pleasing to God than another person’s different, but equally honest interpretation.

    By the way, it did make me mad when you wrote that you could not tolerate my sin. I respect your opinion and admire your conviction, but I found your statement a little presumptuous. Thought provoking, which is good, but presumptuous.

  5. Tolerate sin?

    In my own life? I shouldn’t.

    In the lives of others?

    I should never call it okay or say the Bible doesn’t matter. But that doesn’t mean I’m obligated to preach at everyone I find sinning, nor does it mean that I should stone them:-)

    Jesus tolerated sinners – He did not rebuke the sins of every single person He met -(except by the purity of His presence and example). And he did not obliterate sinners.

    Look at how Christ treated the Samaritians, when they refused to accept Him in their town.

    He did not allow John and James to call down fire from heaven, or even send them one word of rebuke for their sin.

    Jesus will act differantly toward them on Judgement Day.

    There is a time and place for everything, and there is no substitue for asking the Holy Spirit how to deal with non-believers. (Or erring believers, for that matter.)

  6. Michelle: I still don’t like the word tolerate. Jesus loved sinners. Did he tolerate sinners? I don’t think so. When I think of tolerating, I think of accepting….of saying “that’s OK” Jesus did not for a single second tolerate their sin. Don’t confuse the two. The cliche of hating the sin and loving the sinner is tired, but it applies. I am not asking you to judge the person, although I believe in some instances you are called to judge them. I am asking you to call them to repentance, just as Jesus did for you. His death on the cross was all about battling sin. He beat it.

    Aaron: Exactly why is my statement presumptuous? Your quote from John perfectly illustrates my point. Jesus came as the standard bearer. Once you have been in the presence of God, your sinful nature becomes clear.
    As for my definition of sin, I’m not going there. I sense that you want me to define YOUR sin and that’s not my place. I would encourage you to pray and ask God to convict you of your sin. Mine is between me and God. Frankly, I don’t care about your sins -the individual words, thoughts, or deeds. I care about the sinful nature–the very thing that keeps you apart from God. It is only in love that I hate to see anyone separated from God. Your sin (sinful nature, fallenness) would keep you from Him were it not for the Blood of Jesus. You must turn away from the sin to receive His grace.

  7. I’m sorry. I failed to specify the kind of tolerance I meant:

    Josh McDowell did a great lecture a while back on the differance between “postive tolerance” and “negative” tolerance.

    Postive Tolerance means that I accept what you do/believe as equally valid as what I do/believe (or in our case, what God expects us to do and believe)

    Negative Tolerance means that I will not try to force you to comply with my beliefs, even though I believe what you are doing is wrong.

    The mix-up comes because people use these terms interchangeably in real life.

    For example: When you say “I will not tolerate my children doing XYZ in my house.” Everyone knows that you mean negative tolerance. Not only do you *not* accept XYZ as being valid, but you will COMPEL your children, who are under your authority, to not do XYZ.

    On the other hand, when people urge that we be “open-minded and tolerant” they often mean postive tolerance, as in “Admit that our beliefs are just as valid as yours”

    Postive tolerance – means that you think all religions are equally valid.

    Negative tolerance means that we allow people to adhere to other (invalid) religions without the threat of retribution, force, or hatred on our part.

    When you say, “I will not tolerate your sin” a lot of people will misread it as “I am going to try to *force* (not just convince) you to stop.”

    Obviously, there are times when you would not even be negatively tolerant of someone’s wrong actions, as in the case of your own young children, or creating new laws that prohibit wrongdoing.

    But when it comes our family, friends and co-workers, – whom we have no direct authority over, negative tolerance comes into play. This kind of tolerance would not prohibit callling someone to repentance, if God asks us to.

  8. Now I’m confused. First you say you can’t tolerate my sin. Now you say that sin is just between me and God, and it isn’t your place to define it.

    That’s exactly the point I was trying to make – my sin is between me and God. I found it presumptuous for you to suggest that you know what God is thinking when it comes to my sins. The quote from John illustrates to me that God looks at sins in context and I’m not convinced that any of us have a broad enough vantage point to make that call.

    As for your concern about my general sinful nature, I am certainly guilty as charged, though I am still not sure exactly what you’re talking about, but thank you for your prayers none the less.

  9. Second Michele: Thanks for the clarification. Perhaps part of this is my fault in not choosing my words more carefully

  10. Gibber:

    At some point we better have a heart to heart talk or I’m going to come there and smack you. I am not standing in judgment of you or anyone.

    If you want me to start outlining my sins here, I suppose I can, but I guarantee you I would miss a whole bunch. The point is I can’t define what your sins are. I can, however, know that you are sinful. That goes back to Adam and Eve – mostly Eve, but I digress. The same Bible that you read and quote says that all men are sinful and fall short of the Glory of God. I can very easily hate that sinful nature in you, just like I hate it in me. If you have been in the presence of God ( and I assume you have been since you clearly read his Word and attend church with some frequency) then your sinful nature has been revealed and you are now accountable. Make no mistake about it: Simply going to church does not make you a Christ-follower. Simply reading his word does not make you a Christian. You have to believe in what he did. Accept His grace and turn away from your sinful nature. You will continue to sin–because of that nature, but you need to repeatedly repent and pursue holiness.

    Finally, are there moral absolutes? I believe there are. God has established those in his word. I get the sense that you want to live in the gray area. I am encouraging you to dig into the word and ask God for discernment. Ask him to convict you of your sins so that you might confess them and experience true forgiveness.
    The whole point of all of these posts was to get us to think about the label we wear and if we are just wearing the label or if we are truly following what the label represents. Moral relativisme is running rampant these days. I don’t believe God has called me to live in the gray. I don’t believe that he called you to live in the gray.

  11. Aaron: By the way, keep your kid out of the neighbor’s garden!

  12. Just stopped in to take a peek and will have to come back here later in the day. I noticed a question earlier concerning the definition of sin and would like to address it but just got to work. At this point, I would only offer that the topic of SIN is THE issue that MUST be dealt with, according to the Apostle Paul in his summary of the gospel message in 1 Cor 15: 1-5. Most of what we hear about it (if we do hear about it) speaks of it as our mistakes and missteps (what we do/do not do), rather than who we are since the fall DEAD and objects of God’s wrath). The sin that entered creatiion after the fall is some sort of non-personal ‘separation’ or ‘gulf’ between us and God, according to today’s ‘gospel’.

    I cannot bring immediately to mind any personal encounter that Jesus had with anyone in which he did not deal with the issue of sin, even the woman caught in adultery – he told her to go and sin no more. that encounter really was not about the myth of ‘unconditional acceptance’, as many are quick to point out. God loves unconditionslly but we are only acceptable to Him through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

    I better shut up and get to work here…….:)

  13. But blogging is so much more fun than working. I too, should get back to work.

  14. Thanks for the reply this morning, Gray. Your further explanation sits better with me. The original blog obviously put me on the defensive a little bit (which may have been the goal to a certain extent?)

    As to the moral absolutes, that’s a whole other can of worms. Certainly they exist, but drawing the line between the true absolutes and the things that are just nit-picking makes my head hurt.

    By the way, feel free to stop out anytime for the heart-to-heart or smack-down session. Always good to see you, either way!

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