Is The Same
The Bible says some things that are hard to accept, even for Christians.
Not so much hard to understand, but hard to live with. Believing the Bible isn’t the problem. Putting it into practise is. Let me explain.
The core message of the Bible is positive, not negative. We call it The Gospel, which translated means Good News.
But this Good News is difficult to accept because it is consistent. It doesn’t change, and it’s universal. The Gospel is good news for me and everyone else, the people I like and the people I don’t like.
“Universal” is what makes the Gospel unique. Not all news is equally good for everyone.
The person who wins the lottery is ecstatic. Everyone else can only wish.
The good news in the Bible, however, is unqualified. It’s good for everyone. It can’t get any better, but it can be viewed differently by different people depending on the situation.
Most people are very happy that the Gospel offers upliftment to the hopelessly downtrodden or liberation to the impossibly enslaved or enlightenment to the bewildered.
When that part of the penny drops, people are elated.
But it gets even better than that.
Unlike the lottery, with God’s good news, everyone wins: those we pity (the desperate, at risk and poor) and those we despise.
And this is where we balk. We know it’s true that God’s forgiveness and love is offered to everyone but still find it hard to swallow. This is where the acceptability of God’s good news starts to fade. We can accept God forgiving the mildly sinful. We all love that sinner. That’s the one we identify with.
But what about hardened criminals? We might on occasion be happy when severely bad guys are forgiven, but only if their victims were not family or friends. When it gets close, the only good news is the conviction and execution of the abuser.
The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8) is a good example. Jesus forgave her and spared her the agony of execution by stoning.
We love that story. We also assume everyone else loves that story too, but there were exceptions. Think about it. I doubt the her husband was happy. Her little romp was not only hurtful personally, getting caught also made him and the family a spectacle.
She had rocked his world. Why not return the favor?
The same could be said of the wife of her adulterous partner?
And the children would have been embarrassed also. I doubt they wanted the death penalty but maybe a little payback. A couple pelts at least.
And there were others. Family friends on either side, any onlookers whose partner had committed adultery, any children of parents where adultery had been committed and probably more.
I don’t doubt there were several in the crowd clutching stones, waiting for the command to hurl. In that situation, forgiveness was both loved and hated. It relieved some folks and aggravated others.
It’s easy to love forgiveness when it has no context. It can be a little hard to take when you put a face on it.
And one additional qualification. Loving the Gospel isn’t about learning to freely and openly forgive every offense. It’s about learning to accept it when God does.