Archives For Jesus is Victor!

Some time ago I took up a detailed exchange on twitter with a lady who had proudly stated that she was cutting out “hate the sin” from the phrase, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’.  She was happily proclaiming her decision to stick with ‘’love the sinner’’ because this was apparently more biblical.

Her post won her a few retweets and likes, but I disagreed and gave good reasons for doing so. The biblical imperatives such as: “Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9) mean that there is a distinction between love for the sinner and sin. To remove the “hate the sin” clause is to leave too much room for  “love the sinner” to easily become “ignore the sin” or worse “love the sin as much as the sinner”.

The distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin, is at the very core of Jesus Christ’s reconciliation of humanity with God. Without a separation  between sin and sinner grounded in God’s act in Jesus Christ, there can only be a further separation of the sinner from God. For sin separates the sinner from the Sinless. Only in Jesus Christ can the sinner be freed from sin and reconciled to God.

In a rebuttal to my response, an academic (I presume a theologian) proudly stepped in. He then decided to lecture me on the error of my ways.

In response, I brought up Bonhoeffer:

‘Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, as sacrifice, a work; he wants you alone.  You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him […] He wants to be gracious to you. You can dare to be a sinner [dare to be who you really are before God; a sinner]. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but Hates the sin.’ (Confession & Communion, Life Together, 1954)

My interlocutor huffed with pride. He said that he’d read everything of Bonhoeffer’s work and was sure that Bonhoeffer had never used the phrase. So I provided page, date, book title, chapter and verse. Then pointed out, “loving the sinner, hating the sin” isn’t something Bonhoeffer spoke as a one off. Bonhoeffer had also included it in The Cost of Discipleship,

‘May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner. May we withstand our foes, and yet hold out to them the Word of the gospel which woos and wins the souls of men.’ (p.xxxiv)

After I provided the reference which proved him wrong, he dismissed my thoughts and ended his correspondence. The lady maintained her position. Then had to have the last word by tweeting at me her reasons for doing so.

It will not make me popular, (because it didn’t) but standing by the exegetical accuracy of Bonhoeffer’s statements on the issue, is far safer ground than building an unbiblical ethic around subjective human ideas of God. Standing on what, where and in whom God reveals himself, is far safer ground than making deceptive theological statements which repaints Christianity as solely being about an ethic of “niceness”.

I’ll end this with Reinhold Niebuhr, who very aptly hinted at the same thing when he wrote:

‘A position of detachment destroys our responsibilities in life’s controversies for the sake of avoiding sinful corruptions of those responsibilities. We ought to be angry when wrong is done; but we must learn the difficult art of being angry without sinning.’
(R.Niebuhr, Discerning The Signs of the Times.)

References:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D. 1954. Life Together, HarperCollins Publishers

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. 1934. Cost of Discipleship, SCM Press

[iii] Niebuhr, R. 1946. Discerning the Signs of the Times 

Artwork: John Martin, 1840 ‘Calvary’ 

In his discussion on ‘The Freedom of Man for God’, Karl Barth distinguishes between human triumphalism and ‘God’s triumph’[i]. Barth’s exposition asserts that human triumphalism stands against the God who triumphs.

Human triumphalism is both an active and passive denial of God.

Linked to works righteousness, it is a fanatical rejection of the Creators rights to His creation.

His Lordship is undermined, ignored and forgotten in order for humanity to assert their own. This act exemplifies itself in the form of ‘primal atheism’[ii]; humans reaching for God’s power whilst at the same time proclaiming that such a power only exists in a special few (mysticism) or does not exist at all (atheism).

In short, men and women seek to become lordless powers.

Examples of this can be seen in how some modern proponents utilise Religion or ideology to justify their rejection of God’s Lordship in Jesus Christ.

Via claims to superior, “inside” knowledge or the Darwinian excuse that the strong determine the treatment or mistreatment of the weak.

In the progressive quest to work for God, or alternatively ignore God, we find elements which seek emancipation from God.

Consequently, the biblical promise of a ‘newness of life’ (Romans 6:4) is replaced with a mystical fog or a reason induced cold pragmatism. Most often affirmed by an esoteric elitism who, hiding behind entitlement, choice, nature and good intentions, hypocritically end up forcing a tyrannical ‘denial of life’ upon humanity.

Ultimately, the charade is found wanting and sinful humanity is once again reminded of its tendency to parade darkness as light.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot apprehend that which can only be given to us.

Humanity remains unfree in the ignorance and futility of its quest to be free from the Creator, who has and still does, have a right to His creation. By enforcing His right the Creator appears as powerless. In mercy, He lowers Himself in order to raise us up.

‘Freedom to be for God is not a freedom which we have taken, but a freedom which God has given to us in His mercy’ [iii]

Our lack of  sensitivity and response to God’s approach i.e.: our lack of ‘receptivity to revelation through gratitude and humble recognition’[iv], leads to a rejection of God and His freedom.

Paul writes:

‘We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death He died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:10)

This in consequence means that ‘to be with God is to be in Christ’[v].

God’s triumph is God’s revelation which has been given in Jesus the Christ and is asserted in this time of grace by the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, and only in Christ, is God’s triumph reconciled to human triumphalism.

From this point we stand and say “Jesus is the Victor”. From this point we abandon all questions that concern ourselves with what we have to do to be in God’s will, or win his approval. From this point we take up our true concern: the invitation into participation with what God has already done and is doing right now on our behalf.

As Barth noted:

God’s continued  presence in us and for us means a ‘state or position in which humans may find themselves, but only with amazement, only with gratitude, only in humble recognition of an accomplished fact…an earlier state is one of self-glorification and self-will. Apart from the triumph of God it would still be the state of humanity today. Marked again by forgetting or denying the triumph of God by seeing (and calling) the power of God on us and in us as anything other than the Holy Spirit’[vi]

References:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I.II Hendrickson Publishers p.260

[ii] Ibid, p.321

[iii] Ibid, p.258

[iv] Ibid, p.260

[v] Ibid, p.258

[vi] Ibid, p.260

Image credit: Tim Marshall, Unsplash.com

IMG_0942Disarm evil. Defuse conflict.

Create boundaries.

Redefine toxic relationships.

Pursue peace.

What was, no longer is.

What now exists – the good that stands,

stands because of who Jesus Christ is, was and will always be.

Grace. Today, yesterday and forever.

– RL2015

Be Like a Seed…

April 23, 2014 — 1 Comment

 RISE UP

IMG_20140423_074145

despite the cynical.

Here is a truth I’ve wrestled with for sometime.

Rarely has it been part of the advice I have received. Usually it is far removed from the ”get over it” – ”move on” – ”it’s probably not as bad as you say”, discounting which arrives the moment you share a concern, or detail a particularly negative life experience that is left unresolved.

healing_signs of life

‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star and have come to worship him’ – Mt.2:1-2

Epiphany 2014

Christmas is Here

December 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

Advent days 23-24: God is present

Merry Christmas1


Image: Created with Picmonkey

Walking past our computer last night I saw my daughter working away at something. I walked closer and discovered her designing a nativity scene using the standard “paint” software found on most computers.

Nativity_PCIllustration_AGL2013

Image: ‘Nativity’ AGL2013

The artwork was of her own making, straight from her heart utilising gifts and developing skills we are yet to teach her.

It reminded me that the advent season is a journey that involves both movement and anticipation. Lesson and learning.

God teaches us because He loves us. He chooses to reaches out to us because He wants to be near us.

The march from the advent-outhouse to Golgotha is sign-posted by the Christ mass (for Catholics); the Christ Passion (for Protestants). The Christ march is for our celebration. Such a celebration is to be ‘marked by the forgiveness of sins and the cry of joy that Jesus is the Victor!’[i] Christ is at once ‘God’s judgement and God’s compassion’ (Dickson & Clarke, 2007:116).

It is not about marking an eve of devastation, but the eve of destruction and subsequent restoration, whereby God takes His rightful place in our lives. Today is a day when all earthly authority which stands as its own supreme authority is put on notice. A time when they are reminded that what little authority they have is borrowed, if not, only delegated to them.

Such a theology is not about empty, deluded triumphalism. Rather it is about understanding that because of the living God, the world is living in the light of Jesus the Christ. Creation groans, we are told, and is experiencing in ever greater events the dawn of His physical return. The Holy Spirit seeks to reconcile you and me, the time of grace is now, present.

Karl Barth wrote:

The ‘Christian message is an historical truth…not one truth among others; it is the truth. In thinking of God, we have from the beginning to think of the name of Jesus Christ, the unity of God and man, by being an historical truth which became real at that time and place, is no transitory truth…To pronounce the name of Jesus Christ means to acknowledge that we are cared for, that we are not lost.
God is not an ideological imaginary friend. If we look at the covenant which God has really concluded with humanity, then we know that it is not so. God on high is really near to us in the depths. God is present.’[ii]

I agree with Barth when he says that ‘to celebrate Christmas is to see salvation’[iii].

This act relates to us the truth as it penetrates all kinds of un-forgiveness, absent apology, broken recollection and insecure reflection.

Right here, at this time of year we are confronted in Jesus Christ by the God of the exodus who still ‘has a future for His creation. That this future is somehow intrinsically related to the mission of Christ and the intention of God in raising him from the dead’(Moltmann)[iv]

Post-script:

It is Christmas eve. The summer heat over the past three days is breaking as a cool southern wind brings clouds and cooler days. The sky although grey, is full of promise. Today’s post will mark my 200th contribution to theo-blogosphere. I write in order to express a ‘faith which seeks understanding’ (Anselm of Cantebury). My conversation partners on this journey are people who held, and hold on to such an understanding.The Living God invites us to this conversation. I hope, at least, my attempts in responding have been far more than just a “dinner and a show”.

Whether you be a weary traveller or an energetic pilgrim, I thank you for reading my ramblings this far.

Jesus is Victor!

 


[i] Barth, K. 1933 the Epistle to the Romans Oxford University Press, London , p.312
[ii] Barth, K.1947 Dogmatics in Outline SCM Classics pp.60-62
[iii] Barth, K. Sermons
[iv] Moltmann, J 1965 Theology of Hope SCM Press,  p.180