Does Jesus bother you? Is His message of sin, repentance, forgiveness and obedience offensive to you? Do you dislike the Bible as a whole–because, let’s be honest, whether it is specifically attributed to Jesus Christ or not, Christianity is a cohesive message of self-denial characterized by love for others and submission to God. Ultimately, do you believe a world without Him would be preferable?
“Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7 CEB)
Christ’s message is one of love. Not a cozy “we’re-all-okay-God-loves-the-world-as-it-is” message that requires nothing of us, but an uncomfortable “there’s-a-huge-problem-Christ-solved-we-now-need-to-respond-to-it” one. That’s actually the reason most people resent it; because it requires a change in us–in our thinking, speaking or living.
Yet the defining characteristic of the message of the gospel–and those who have submitted themselves to God’s preeminence in their life–is love. Jesus notably declared, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35 NLT)
Regardless of our personal proclivities or preferences, and notwithstanding how we might feel at the moment, as followers of Jesus we respond in love–to the best of our ability and as He empowers us–to those we encounter and interact with in our daily life. Why? Because this identifies and validates us as His! Yet such selfless, sacrificial love is not a universal human norm. To the contrary, it’s absence is characterized by selfishness, misery, abuse and fear.
Perhaps because we’ve been predominantly Christian in the past–because we’ve had great spiritual awakenings like those of the 1730’s, the late eighteenth century, the 1850’s, even the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, that have influenced and shaped our nation’s moral fiber for years afterward–we tend to expect goodness in human behavior as a default setting, but it isn’t. To the contrary, any society–whether of a Christian or other religious tradition–that removes Christ from the equation will invariably find themselves floundering in an abysmal moral quagmire.
The gruesome murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is just the most recent and widely publicized example of humankind’s depravity toward others of its own species. As a matter of fact, the news are pervaded by human rights abuses in multiple countries that lack a strong Christian presence–not the least of which are the incidents of human rights activists, religious groups and others who routinely go missing in China and other oppressive regimes; the abuses against the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar; and the human rights violations perpetrated against women in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Somalia, Djibouti, Bahrain, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Comoros.
You see, the problem is universal; it is not in specific people-groups but in the human heart, which–without the redeeming influences of God’s light and goodness–perpetrates abominable evil, injustice and abuse. And any culture that wants no part of the love that is God eventually gets what it desires.
The description of a society that has rejected God is one of complete depravity:
People are “…filled with all injustice, wicked behavior, greed, and evil behavior. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, and malice. They are gossips, they slander people, and they hate God. They are rude and proud, and they brag. They invent ways to be evil, and they are disobedient to their parents. They are without understanding, disloyal, without affection, and without mercy.” (Romans 1:29-31 CEB)
This picture is not unlike the world before the Flood, when “…every intent of the thoughts of his [humankind’s] heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)
But what of Christ and the witness of the Bible? Is it offensive? Only to those who hate good–those who want the freedom to do that which is selfish, misguided, unkind or unloving. No, rather than being problematic, the teachings of Christ and the Bible serve a redeeming purpose; they are a preservative–the salt and light–within the individuals and societies they inhabit:
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 MSG)
So does Jesus bother you? If He does, you may not fully understand Him yet because He is truly everything we could ever want–and the love and goodness He brings into our life and the lives of others around us makes this world so much better for everyone!
Dear Lord God,
Help me see and experience Your goodness! Amen.