Moral Outrage or the Cross?
To be able to provide an outlet for the flesh by castigating others is quite the carnal pageantry. It comes with a heavy dose of self righteousness, a fleshly delicacy, as well as something very, very special. If you can fulfill the lust of the flesh and simultaneously claim divine direction and divine favor inherent in that very act, well that is some mental gymnastics. And sprinkled with a dose of “courage” as well as “boldness”, and you have the perfect meal served and consumed by your old man.
Brethren, there is a distinct difference between correction within the body and castigating sinners. It is beyond me how anyone could read the gospels and not see that one of the reasons our Lord was criticized was because He was a friend to sinners. He was seen in their company, and He showed uncommon love for them in spite of their sin. He reserved His most poignant rebukes for the self righteous leaders of the Temple.
But within today’s church it has become fashionable to exhibit moral outrage to lost sinners and their sin. Instead of spreading the good news of the gospel, and instead of fasting and praying inside the kingdom of God, the church releases concerted efforts to change the culture. The church even goes so far as to embrace a false mission to return America to the intent of the founding fathers. And in so doing the church has left the Christ and chased after idols.
But the moral outrage syndrome is very curious and incongruent with the teachings of the New Testament. The scenario is this: God by His grace reaches down and plucks a sinner from his sin, gives that sinner His righteousness, and allows him to inherit eternal life. In fact, God makes him a son or daughter in God’s own family. Halleluiah!
Oh but then that saved sinner turns around and views the pigpen from which he was so graciously removed, and that saved sinner now shouts words of condemnation toward the very crowd in which he once roamed. It is so very wrong and it exhibits a profound ignorance of the nature of the gospel and the grace which saved his own soul. And the level of self righteousness is breathtaking.
Requiring lost and dead sinners to alter their lives so that their sin is contained inside acceptable religious norms is Biblically unsound as well as morally self righteousness. Much of it stems from an unbiblical meshing of the temporal and the eternal. And much of it is a subconscious attempt to avoid looking into our own mirror by pointing the finger of condemnation at lost and needy sinners.
Let us complain about the gay pride parade rather than pray all night for them, or even line the parade route handing out fresh water. Let us protest against abortion rather than donate time and money to the nearest Crisis Pregnancy Center. Let us be death penalty advocates rather than go inside prisons and share the good news. Let us spread fear about Muslims and Sharia law instead of weeping and interceding for a lost and deceived people. If Jesus came to provide a platform for moral outrage and condemnation of sinners, well then the church is fulfilling His mission.
But that is not why Jesus came. Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, and as He left this world He gave us a gospel commission. That is our calling; that is our mandate. This contrived moral outrage is nothing more than pointing out the obvious and using it to present your own moral credentials. What role did you have in where you were born? What role did you have in who your parents were? Suppose you had been born into an atheist family? Or a Muslim family? Or adopted by a gay couple?
If any of those scenarios had been true, would you listen to a voice of condemnation or a voice of redemptive hope? Would you desire someone to share Jesus with you or someone to castigate you for who you are? Suppose Jesus had been born of a virgin named Mary, grown up in Nazareth, and after the Spirit fell on Him in the Jordon, He traveled into the desert. He climbed up Mount Sinai and there He lifted up His voice and castigated all the sinners of this world. Suppose He loudly condemned all the sinners who have made such a mess of the culture. Suppose He stood there for over three years and shouted out moral indictments to the entire fallen world. Then He ascended into heaven.
If that had happened then we all would have been included in that expression of moral outrage. And if perchance someone could have saved himself, then he would also imitate that Jesus by shouting out a similar moral outrage. But that is not what Jesus did.
Have you not read the gospel narratives of the Passion Week? How long has it been since you read how Jesus suffered for us? Have you moved on from that story and gone to fry bigger spiritual fish? Has the passion of our wonderful Lord become a lost doctrinal vision? Do you consider His sufferings a child’s story that has no bearing on the most important issues of today? When have you last seen yourself in those stripes, and in those punches, and in those thorns, and when have you last watched as YOU spit upon that lovely face?
Oh yes, it was all you and me. And tell me then, where is the moral pedestal upon which we can stand when we realize who we were before He found us? Why don’t you voice moral outrage about your role in His sufferings? Why don’t you express moral outrage because after He saved your soul, and after the Spirit of God came to live inside your being, you still sin? Where is your moral outrage over that shameful behavior?
Oh, I see. It is a matter of degrees and a matter of sin choices. Some sins are worse than others? Than I would guess the worst sin of all would be taking one bite of one piece of fruit since it was that sin that doomed the entire race. And in the light of that truth remember this: If you were Adam today, then any sin you commit today would doom the entire human race. As you go to work and do 27 mph in a 25 mph zone we are all doomed. As you look at a commercial and wish you had something - we are doomed! When you look at a scantily dressed woman - we are doomed. When you speak about someone negatively - again, doomed. When you think more highly of yourself than you should - doomed.
Yes, we have erected such a self righteous scaffolding and used it to pummel sinners and excuse ourselves. Grace has become a tenant of the faith rather than a living exhibition expressed through humility, gratefulness, and a passion to see others come into that grace. The same lips that are raised in worship on Sundays speak words of vitriol and condemnation throughout the week? It is a diabolical deception that is antithetical to all Jesus lived and taught.
In our world sinners contaminate the culture and become irritants to our way of life. In Christ’s kingdom sinners are to be called to Him. In our world certain sins carry more moral weight. In Christ’s kingdom all sins were addressed at the cross equally. In our world outrage directed at sinners magnifies the Judeo-Christian ethic. In Christ’s kingdom He is to be magnified. In our world we resist being seen with sinners. In Christ’s kingdom he embraces sinners and beckons them to believe in Him.
So go ahead and express your moral outrage. But if you do, please understand one thing. You are not preaching Christ, you are preaching Moses. And Moses cannot save anyone. How did God express His outrage over the sins of the world? He gave His only begotten Son. And when I think that God the Son suffered and bled and gave His life for me...well, that is an outrage.