I spent last week writing as though the writer of Ecclesiastes were writing today. He would be forced to argue not that everything is meaningless, but that everything is senseless. This is nowhere more true than in regard to our sixth sense - that knowing we have without knowing - and particularly, our sense about God.
We're living in a world where the lines between right and wrong are harder to draw than ever. No more is man guided by a sense of morality; rather, he's guided by his own emotions. There are people in this world who can talk their way out of anything, after getting into everything. And as Christians, it's been harder for us to come down on one side or the other of any issue.
We fear becoming the Christians of the past, the fire-and-brimstone Christians who built their theology on condemning everyone to Hell. We don't want to say things about right and wrong because it sounds like the sin gospel, and aren't we here to preach a Savior? We've set our sights on something else entirely - love. All we want to do, we say, is love like Jesus loved. And let God sort out right and wrong.
The trouble is that without right and wrong, we can only teach love, and a watered-down love at that. We can never teach grace, which is just as much at the essence of the gospel of Christ as is love. Without sin, we can talk about a Teacher, but we can never point to a Savior.
Who, not sinning, needs one?
And that's the problem. We have un-crucified our Christ in the name of "tolerance." We have brought Him back to the streets of Galilee as a good man, a wise teacher, a faithful friend. And while all that is well and good, there are plenty of men out there like that. Why Jesus? this world is asking. Why, indeed, if He never was a Savior.
This is a question that even more and more Christians are asking. We're losing Jesus ourselves, not just in the world but in our hearts. We look at His teaching and think "love without condemnation" but that doesn't mean we refuse to acknowledge what right and wrong are. Jesus looked at woman caught in adultery and did not make excuses for her; He made provision for her. He did not say, "It's okay that you slept with another man because I don't know your circumstances, and maybe it seemed like the right thing to do to you." No. He said, "I will not condemn you, but sin no more." He did not speak to a corrupt tax collector and give him peace that it was okay to skim a little off the top. After all, he was just trying to provide for his family in a difficult economic situation. No, Jesus spoke with grace and tenderness, and the tax collector knew what he was doing was wrong and paid it back.
There is a right and wrong in Jesus, and it's the only thing that draws us to Him. It's sin that leads us to the Cross, where there is grace. It's not fun, no. It's not pretty. It's not popular in a world where there's an excuse for everything to live as a people of grace. Because it means we have to know the difference. It means we have to believe there is a right and a wrong. It means we have to be willing to look at the wrong and declare it so. We have to acknowledge sin among us.
Even when it hurts.
Because without sin, there can be no Savior. And then, who is this Jesus? He could be anybody.
And I don't want a Jesus who could be anybody. I want the Jesus who is for everybody. Saints and sinners, of which I am the worst among us.
We want to get this love thing right. I know we do. But this passive, tolerant love we've been preaching isn't it. Jesus taught a radical love. A love that looks sin right in the eye and offers grace. A love that knows we're broken men and hugs so tight that some of the pieces stick back together. A love that isn't willing to say, "I cannot judge," but a love that says, "I see a guilty man before me - in the street, in the pew, in the mirror - and I love him anyway. I can't help but not." It's a love that has to see sin so that it can have hope of a Savior.