Once upon a time, I went to church. Good sermon. I came home, hopped on Facebook, and put up some thoughts about the death of Christ paying for our sins.
One of the comments was a link to a youtube video about the fallacies of Christian justice. It was a parody upon the metaphorical parable of the judge of the courtroom who declares the defendant guilty. The defendant, a rapist with a swastika tattooed to his head, is declared guilty by the judge. But after this, the judge has the courtroom officers bring out the judge’s son, beat him and kill him.
“My son has paid the price for you. If you believe and you accept his sacrifice, you can walk. Totally free.”
“WHAT?!?!?!” The audience says, enraged. “You’re letting him go free?”
“Your sins are forgiven,” the judge says. “You may go free.”
“Well, cool.” The rapist with the swastika says. And walks right out, to the dismay of the victim. To the dismay of the audience. At this point, the screen fades to black and the words appear…
“Hey, Christians, maybe accountability is a good thing.”
Here’s a question: Does the video improperly show Christian doctrine? Is it wrong?
Well…the video is right, in this regard: Christianity does a horrible job as a sociological tool. A better sociological tool would reward good behavior and threaten undesirable consequences for bad behavior.
A good sociological tool would create an “us” and “them” based on the criteria that really benefits society.
A good sociological tool would not eliminate forgiveness and grace. It would have redemption and grace. I mean, we like redemption, so we would want it in there. But only for people who are “actually sorry enough”. People who repeat mistakes too often…well, obviously they aren’t repentant or sorry enough. So no grace for them.
A good sociological tool would use the concept of hell to threaten people for things the society deems inappropriate or damaging. If fear can keep people away from the electric fence, surely fear can be used to prevent undesirable behaviors! Do we need people to stop robbing others? Threaten hell on them! Does society think we need to have traditional family structures? Threaten hell!
Christianity is a horrible sociological tool.
But maybe Christianity wasn’t meant to be a sociological tool.
So let’s go back to the question…is the video right?
Well, if you ask me how nice a shirt looks, and I measure the shirt’s temperature, then let me tell you: The temperature of the shirt won’t be wrong.
If you ask me how a band sounds, and I tell you what color hair they have, I won’t be wrong.
If you ask me if the car gets a good mileage, and I tell you how long the sound system lasts, I won’t be wrong.
I’m just not answering your question. I’m giving the wrong measurement.
The overarching story of Christianity is not meant to move us to obedient action (even though Christians are urged to obey and take action, sure) but rather, to move us to worship. Christianity is not meant to produce behavior. It is meant to produce worship.
It has always weirded me out that a doctrine that makes no calls to violence (although the church called for violence in Christian history, most notably the crusades, that call was not in obedience to Scripture. Jesus taught us that those who live by the sword will die by the sword) can accrue so many enemies.
I mean, to my eyes, Christianity asks for less than other worldviews. My money is not required to enter into Christ. My obedience is not required to enter. My discipline is not required to enter. There is no minimum behavior requirement.
Christian doctrine teaches that all I need to do is place my faith in Jesus, His words and His works. Oh, and that the work has already been done. It is finished.
So does that mean that Christianity asks nothing of me?
Well, Christianity teaches this: Since the work was done for you…
- No more work is REQUIRED of you. The work is done.
- Worship the One who did the work, for He is worthy.
- By the way, be like Him.
Is being like Jesus required of me? Well…I have to ask what “required” means. Does it mean “I have to, or else I’ll…”
…I’ll what? What are the consequences for failing to be like Jesus?
1 John 2:1-2 (NIV)
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
…the consequences of failing to be like Jesus are that I will be advocated for.
In Christianity, the work has been done for me. The Easter story is not a call to do the work, but to rejoice, celebrate, and worship.
Because as far as my salvation is concerned, there is no more work to be done. As for as worship is concerned, there is no end in sight.
If I am successful in loving those whom society deems unlovable, it is not in order to avoid hell. It is an attempt to worship Him by trying to be like Him.
If I give money to support those in need, it is not to stay ahead of the “not good enough” line. It is a minimal attempt to imitate the one who gave His all.
If I am able to speak up for the victim, it is an imitation of the one who spoke up for the adulteress and stood between her and her accusers’ readied stones.
Christians do not obey to avoid punishment. Christians obey to worship and be like the Risen Christ.
One might criticize how Christianity makes people feel bad by claiming that without faith in Jesus, they are going to hell, and that people aren’t really hell-worthy bad. I’m not even addressing that in this blog post.
All I can tell you is that personally, I have a good keen grasp on my hell-worthy-ness and I can give you exact play-by-play details on who I’ve wronged and how. So rather than enter into that debate, I’ll just tell you this: there is not an ounce of me that can trick myself into thinking I’m good enough without the cross of Christ.
That video that we started this blog post about painted quite the picture. Because of the cross, Christianity does not hold people accountable to their wrongdoings. But in order to hope that others are held accountable to their evils, in order to be consistent and have integrity, I have to be willing to be held accountable to my evils. And that scares me.
The cross of Christ takes that fear away.
Maybe you wish I were held accountable to my evils, and that I would be a better person if I got what I deserved. And that your evils aren’t as bad. I dunno.
All I know is, I’m glad you’re not in charge.
The One who is in power, who has power over death itself, has unlocked the door for me. All God really wants is to actually be treated like God. But when I fail, my Advocate is there.
And He is risen.
He is risen indeed.