On Facebook, a friend of mine commented on the above blog post. Instances like these make me shake my head. What these types of actions demonstrate and reveal is that what is in this person’s heart, and those like him/her, is judgment, wrath and the like. Somehow, they are of the view that heaping judgment upon a person in this manner will draw this person to Christ. Actually, this is the opposite of New Testament teaching and more in line with those who taught a “gospel” which was just the old ways, following rules and judging anyone who didn’t follow them properly, repackaged. Paul declares that this “gospel” isn’t really a “gospel” because where is the good news? Yet, how many in the western church, primarily America, focus on judgment and condemnation as their mode of attempting to draw people to Christ?
Lately, in my own learning, it has been reinforced to me that it is God’s kindness and goodness that draws people to Him. Paul says in Romans 2:4 that “God’s kindness is leading people to repentance.” In addition, since the fruits mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:22 are characteristics of the Spirit, these are characteristics also of God. One of them is long-suffering. 2 Peter 3:9 speaks of God’s patience toward people because He doesn’t want anyone to perish but all to come to repentance. God continues to demonstrate His kindness and goodness to people, patiently and with long-suffering, because He knows that it could be a long time, maybe even never, before they come to repentance and into a relationship with Him. But, I believe, even if He knows that a person to whom He demonstrates His kindness and goodness will never come to repentance, He will still demonstrate both because His character and actions are not dependent upon the outcome or the person’s response. If they were, that would make His love conditional; and it just isn’t.
Peter even says in his first epistle that we “are a chosen race, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, a people acquired for a possession so that we may declare the virtues of the One who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I wonder, is judgment and condemnation a virtue? What is being declared about the One who has called us if what those of this race/priesthood/nation/people use judgment and condemnation as the operative force in our interactions with those outside the kingdom?
God has a history of telling His people to work for the good of a community and the people therein. Through the prophet Jeremiah, He instructs those in captivity in Babylon to work for the good of their community and I’m thinking that Babylon had a suspect culture regarding the things of God. Even in the Roman empire, which was hostile toward Christians, Christ-followers were exhorted to live peaceful lives, working for the good of their communities. In other words, God has a history of wanting His kindness and goodness demonstrated in this world. It is what Jesus did when physically on this earth. Why should it be any different for us?
Over the last 3+ years, through the teaching of Graham Cooke, I have been learning much and have gone deeper with and in God and an understanding of Scripture than I ever have before. Just recently I heard him tell of an encounter he had with the leaders of a large group of believers. This group was planning to descend upon San Francisco basically to tell the citizens of that city to repent or else. Basically it was the Jonah and Nineveh thing all over again, and they wanted Graham to join them. He absolutely refused. And not only did he refuse, he informed these leaders that he would make it a point to be in San Francisco on that very same day, calling down and sharing God’s goodness with the people of the city.
It is a human, religious spirit that focuses on judgment and condemnation. And, just because you say that you are doing it to convince someone to repent, doesn’t make it any better or different; it’s still a human and religious spirit.
This focus flies in the face of who God is and what He did. Paul says in Romans 5:8 that “God commends His own love to us that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That means that while we were deserving of judgment and condemnation because we were rebelling against God and we should have experienced anything but the goodness, kindness and love of God, God demonstrated the ultimate act of unconditional love by sending His own Son to earth to die. Why then do those who claim to know God, who say the nature and Spirit of Christ resides in their hearts, act in a such a way that is in direct opposition to what God did?
I want no part of that group. My focus is on God’s goodness, kindness, long-suffering and patience. I want Him to demonstrate these traits of His nature and character to the people around me through me. And if, because of this, people are drawn to repentance and into a son/daughter relationship with Him, I will rejoice, but even if they are not, that will not change my focus because that focus is not dependent upon the response of those around me.
May God’s goodness, kindness, long-suffering and patience shine through me and you for His glory.