Sunday, June 17, 2012

Unreasonable Redemption

Unreasonable Redemption

If we view the depth of God’s redemptive sacrifice, even with our severely limited perspectives, we must admit that is it on many levels unreasonable. To offer an escape to your worst enemies is something most noble, but to provide that escape through the death of that which is most precious to you is quite another matter. The incarnation itself is a panoramic wonder indeed. But to see Jesus for Who He was, and to juxtapose His sinless majesty upon those Roman planks is stirring and disturbing. It makes no sense in the natural.

Why the shedding of blood? Why the torture? Why Bethlehem? Why a virgin? And the motivation for it all was not our value, but the unsearchable love of God Almighty. Do not think God could not go on without you and me. The Creator could have easily created another universe and another race and doted upon them. But in a display of unrivaled love, God made a way for a rebellious rebels such as us. Again, it is unreasonable.

Now stop and meditate for a moment. It would have been glorious for Christ to die in our place so that we could be redeemed and live eternally here on earth. Or God could have made an eternal paradise where we would live forever in perfection and apart from sin. But who could have imagined that God would redeem us so that we would spend eternity with Him, and to be like Him, and empowered to worship Him in all His glory and splendor. Beyond unreasonable.

But let me connect the unreasonableness of redemption with the unreasonableness of the life laid out for the redeemed. There are so many truths that provide a path for those who claim to follow Jesus and have been changed by His redemptive power. The life revealed by the New Testament is quite astonishing and way beyond the reach of an unregenerate sinner. This life is much more than avoiding the usual pitfalls of smoking and drinking and cursing. The living journey for the child of God is unreasonable.

And so we are to act and think remarkably different than we used to and different than the world’s culture. This includes an incredibly profound teaching that on all levels separates Christianity from all other religions. Of course there is the matter of forgiveness, which we are exhorted to extend to everyone. But much further and much deeper than that, we are to love others. And even further into unreasonableness, we are exhorted to love our enemies. Can there be any more unreasonable command than that?

And it is precisely that principle which dramatically distinguishes the Old Testament from the New Testament. Even the Psalms asks God to exact revenge upon our enemies, and yet Christ says we must love our enemies. The paradox is striking. I am incapable of completely unraveling the mystery of the Old Testament and the bent toward violence and revenge. However, in the New Covenant, the Old Testament contains secrets and revelations of the Lord Jesus. And now the New Testament is foundational and the Old Testament must bow to the completed revelation of God through Jesus Christ.

We as fallen humans are so inadequate when it comes to love, even as it pertains to people we do love. But how can we love our enemies? And so many of the Calvinist/reformed theological bent suggest that God does not love the non-elect, and even hates those sinners. Well let me ask you this: Does God ever ask us to exhibit traits contrary to His own character? Then this “love your enemies” thing must reflect the heart and character of our God. And to love your enemies is no small feat and can only be accomplished by the power of the Spirit through a yielded vessel. But in this modern ecclesiastical community which listens incessantly to the carnal rants of talk show hosts, loving your enemies is not even on the doctrinal landscape.

It has become popular to demonize your enemies and find others of like mind with whom you can exchange like minded vitriol. One only has to listen to the carnal verbiage directed at President Obama and you will see just how far the church has strayed from the faith. Redemption now must be reasonable and fit into a particular political persuasion. In fact, by the attitudes and words of many professing believers, you would think redemption must be earned. It is evident that unlike God’s love our love seemingly must be earned.

And God is not satisfied with suggesting that we love our enemies in our hearts. He is well acquainted with the hollowness of that verbal insistence. But God commands us to do good to our enemies, and even to bless those who despitefully use us. Wow. Do we ever stop and consider the profound implications of such a command? Has it ever been seared into our hearts that God died for us while we were yet His enemies?

But we have sculpted out a caricature of the Christian faith which ignores entire segments of the New Testament but embraces a set of moral tenants, many of which we ourselves have sinned against in the hidden chambers of our hearts. But it suits our need for self righteousness and is conveniently shaped like a club of condemnation and not an overture of redemption. Condemnation of others is reasonable within a framework that resembles a Hindu cast system. But that in no way resembles the unfathomable gospel of redemption that we have been called to preach and live.

And so the question is penetrating. Do we live a reasonable life which embraces things which not only can be explained, but much of which mirrors that which is embraced by many lost people? Or do we live and think and speak in such a way that it seems unreasonably gracious, and is our overtures of gospel redemption so uncompromising that people in the church sometimes accuse us of condoning sin? I submit to you that if no one ever accuses you of being soft on sin, then you probably fall short of a powerful and vulnerable expression of the redemptive grace of God.

The life that seeks to exhibit Christ does not make earthly sense. The world accuses and excuses each other based upon what standard you wish to apply to yourself and to others. But Jesus Himself warned the religious folk of His day that publicans and harlots would enter the kingdom of God before the self righteous. Can you imagine someone suggesting such a thing today? It would be like saying some pro-choice sinners will enter God’s kingdom before some large church pastors. Hmm…

That does not sound too reasonable.

2 comments:

Lisa Brabant said...

I have nothing to add - just want to comment that this was beautifully and clearly written - and Amen!
Thank you, Lisa

Lisa Brabant said...

I have nothing to add - just want to comment that this was beautifully and clearly written - and Amen!
Thank you, Lisa