It’s quite disturbing to me that so many Christian churches today are continually fixated on how sinful we all are. They constantly remind us that we are unworthy and that our sins are filthy and that this keeps us separated from God.
But then, in the very same breath, they will remind us that Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World.”
So, which is it?
I mean, if the Good News of the Gospel is that we were sinners and Christ’s death sets us free from the Law of Sin and Death, then why are we still wallowing in our sinfulness?
And if we are still enslaved to our sinfulness, then how can we proclaim that Jesus took away our sins and nailed them once and for all to the cross?
Are we really set free from the Law of Sin and Death?
Did Jesus actually take away our sins and nail them to the cross once and for all?
Or, are we just hopeless sinners who can never, ever, truly be set free from our filthy sinfulness?
What about that verse – which almost never gets quoted by these same sin-obsessed Christians – that tells us:
“…that in Christ God was reconciling the World to Himself, not counting our sins against us, and entrusting us with this message of reconciliation.” [2 Cor. 5:19]
Now THAT is Good News!
I mean, why don’t I hear Christians repeating that one every Sunday? Why aren’t we writing and singing songs based on this amazing message? Why aren’t street preachers standing on their soapboxes and shouting this verse through their megaphones?
Perhaps it’s because setting people free – really free – from the shame and guilt of their sins makes it really hard to build a church, or to grow a religion.
So, we need to keep people in a constant state of limbo between being loved/accepted and condemned/ashamed.
See, if everyone is always wondering whether or not they are free, there’s always a reason for them to come back again next week to find out. And, if our reconciliation with God is in doubt, or in flux, then we’ll always need someone to reassure us that this forgiveness is available – at least as long as we remain members in good standing with the church and keep paying our tithes.
Now, imagine the chaos if everyone actually KNEW for a fact that they were – right now – totally and completely forgiven and absolutely reconciled to God. [No, seriously. Imagine it.]
What if our message to everyone was simply this: “God loves you. God isn’t counting your sins against you anymore. God has reconciled you completely. You are forgiven. Totally forgiven. You are accepted. Completely. You are God’s beloved child. When you’re ready to come home, God is waiting for you with arms wide open.”
How beautiful would that be?
But, as one friend of mine pointed out recently, this message – as true as it is – doesn’t keep people coming back every week to drop money in the offering plate and hear your sermon and sing your songs.
So, we emphasize our sinfulness and we downplay our message of reconciliation in favor of a story about how broken and miserable we are.
Because it keeps butts in the seats.
Now, I can already hear some of you saying: “But Keith, we ARE sinners! Everyone sins!”
Yes, that is true. We all make mistakes. We all fall short of the Glory of God.
But that is not our identity. That is not who we ARE.
We are the children of God. We are beloved. We are reconciled.
One could make the case that everyone on the planet defecates on a daily basis. We all poop.
But is that who we ARE? Are we, at the core of our being, “Poopers?” Does this daily, repetitive movement define our character or reflect our identity?
No. It does not.
What defines our character and our identity is based on whose image we are all made in.
What defines our value and our worth is calculated by the price someone is willing to pay to be with us forever.
God has said that we are worth dying for.
God has demonstrated our value by paying the ultimate price to be with us.
God has declared that we are all made in the image of the Divine.
God has, in Christ, reconciled the entire World completely and does not count our sins against us.
“Behold, the Lamb of God who [really does] take away the sins of the World!”
That is Good News. Maybe someone should start preaching that? And living that?
I’ll go first.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.