Friday, July 29, 2011

HOW LOVE WINS - Part Seven

God’s Love, Governmental Responsibilities and the Atonement

Does God want to forgive sinners? Consider, Psalm 86:5 which reads, "For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee." It’s interesting that the Psalmist states that God is ready to forgive. There is an internal willingness of God to extend forgiveness to the guilty. The atonement, then, is not an influence upon God that convinces or prepares Him to be forgiving. God is ready to forgive. There must be something which prevents His readiness, His willingness from becoming actual forgiveness. I would suggest that the love of God inclines Him to promote the improvement of His creation while leading Him to resist its detriment. Therefore, mercy and forgiveness must be exercised wisely to guard against conditions in a given situation getting worse as opposed to better. In many discussions that I’ve had with students upon the topic of the atonement and its relationship to forgiveness, I have noticed a tendency toward careless thinking. An essential concern here relates to the question, “In God’s plan of redemption, do you think He wants to improve or worsen conditions on planet earth and in our lives?” The atonement is a governmental strategy designed to make it possible for God to wisely and righteously pardon the guilty upon the conditions of their repentance and faith without injuring His character or kingdom. Without in depth discussion about Commutative, Retributive and Public Justice, I suggest that God is interested in Public Justice. The love and wisdom of God leads Him to seek means of forgiveness that protects the citizens of His kingdom. I conclude this brief entry with a representation of the difference between Personal Offense and Forgiveness and Governmental Offense and Forgiveness (Pardon).

On a personal level God has overcome the insult and offense (sin) committed against Him. However, as a moral ruler of a moral kingdom, God must deal with the issue of pardon in a wise and responsible manner. Let me illustrate by using a human parallel.

A thief is caught after breaking into a house. He is then brought before a judge for trial. During the proceedings it surfaces that the house he had broken into belonged to the judge he stood before. The judge, being a merciful, just and reasonable man, considered the thief’s situation carefully. Recognizing that the man was driven by desperation to feed his family the judge chose, on the personal level, to forgive the offense committed against him, expressing no bitterness, resentment or vengeance toward the criminal. With the complete dismissal of internal, personal turmoil and resentment the judge handed down a verdict consistent with the laws of the land for, at least, three closely connected reasons. All three reasons rotate around his governmental responsibility to promote public justice. First, as a public servant he had a duty to honor the law for the sake of public interest, knowing that others who were contemplating crime needed to realize that negative consequences do follow illegal activity. Second, it was important to protect his character due to his responsibilities as a judge, communicating to his constituents that he is just. Third, the well-being and protection of those under his care must not be endangered by his merciful disposition or practices. In this example, the judge exercised personal forgiveness but could not extend governmental pardon since there was no way to accomplish the three concerns above. As God faces this dilemma as the Governor and Judge of the human race, the atonement becomes that governmental strategy designed to resolve these challenges.

Ecclesiates 8:11 - "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil. "

Friday, July 22, 2011

HOW LOVE WINS - Part Six

Understanding the Governmental Responsibilities of God

Love must not be reduced to a simple, emotional, sentimental thought about or reaction toward another. Love, at times (not always), might inspire certain emotions of this sort but, let’s be clear, the emotions themselves are not love and will not always be present when love exists. Let me emphasize, we must not reduce (or redefine) love in this way. A great disservice is done to God and His kingdom (not to mention the vast number of deceived humans) when we carelessly promote the idea that forgiveness of sin and “acceptance” of sinners is based on a sentimental pity God experiences toward the guilty. The love of God that is in operation behind the plan of redemption is a willful resolve to purpose and promote the highest good possible. This involves the well-being of those created in His image and the universe of created and non-created entities. Love, when addressing the issue of providing a way to pardon the guilty, involves great complexity. Inspired by love, God devised a plan of redemption that had to consider and give attention to various governmental complexities. Such governmental complexities and responsibilities are the reason for the necessity of the atonement and requirement of the guilty to exercise genuine repentance toward God and faith in the Person and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In the series articles to come, we will consider the governmental complexities and responsibilities referred to above. We will, as well, consider why love necessitates atonement, repentance and faith. Beware, these are weighty issues that the Christian community (especially Christian spokesmen, leaders, pastors, teachers, etc.) must be able to communicate if we are to avoid reducing the gospel to an impotent declaration of Christianized religious humanism.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

TRULY DISCIPLES

There is a very serious need for Christians to wake up and realize that there is such a thing as truth and we are either standing for it or against it. There are far too many unhelpful attempts to employ some misguided form of diplomacy that is supported by an incomplete, lopsided idea of love and representation of Jesus. Truth is being mutilated in the process. Christianity is being redefined and diluted to an impotent solution for nothing. There is a disconnect between referring to oneself as a Christian and understanding Biblical principles, truth and/or lifestyle. Everything is acceptable except saying that certain things are unacceptable. With a massive amount of word parades and information forums, the Christian message is being camouflaged as just another opinion among many as opposed to the transforming truth of the Living God. Surely, there is a need to interpret truth but engaging in the business of interpreting Biblical text and playing at the game of tolerantly sharing pluralistic opinions are considerably different. Are people free to share their opinions? Absolutely! I would never support eliminating this freedom. Are there right and wrong opinions? Absolutely! I would never support eliminating this reality. The problem is that too many Christian voices have accepted the idea that it is improper, if not unacceptable, to state that some ideas are wrong and some are right. Let me modify this previous statement slightly. They are willing to say that the person who says someone is wrong is wrong for saying someone is wrong. Who will set us free from this body of lies? Who will rise up…against the wicked? Who will take a stand…against evildoers? But, of course, there is no such thing as wicked people or evildoers, just unfortunately misguided victims that justifiably act in such a manner due to internal or external causation. God forbid that anyone should judge them or hold them accountable. We need, desperately, to be set free from this road to nowhere. “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn.8:31-32)