Jesus Did Not Come to Make you Nice

“And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty
will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 19:23)

Do you need Jesus?

I mean that seriously.  Do you need Him for your salvation, or is having Jesus in your life a “Value Added Product”?  Many of us were already pretty nice by the world’s standards, how has Jesus changed you?

Today I wanted to share an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is… Everyone says you are a nice chap and (between ourselves) you agree with them.  You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and the self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are “rich” in this sense to enter the Kingdom…

If you are a nice person – if virtue comes easy to you – beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

But if you are a poor creature – poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels, nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends  – do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all – not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school.

“Niceness” – wholesome, integrated personality – is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic and political mean in our power, to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up “nice”; just as we may try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world – and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.

SDG

Broken People Do Broken Things

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

“Broken people do broken things.”

I first heard this nugget of wisdom form a funeral home director.  He and I were riding in the hearse to a graveside service after having left the funeral home and a family that was fighting with each other.  I don’t remember why they were fighting (probably something to do with inheritance), but I was visibly shaken and the director could tell.  I remember asking why they couldn’t get past their difference for at least an hour and be civil with one another during the service, and that’s when he said it, “Broken people do broken things.”

I don’t think he meant it to excuse their behavior, but perhaps to change my perspective on the world.  The world is full of broken people.  Some have managed to put a good spin on their brokenness, their sins are the acceptable kind that are given a wink by society.  For others, their brokenness is clear for everyone to see, and often that brokenness is worn as a “red badge of courage.”

Hasn’t the brokenness of the world reared its ugly head this week?  Over the weekend we heard of ISIS having beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians , and this just after the news of the death of Kayla Mueller, the burning of the Jordanian pilot, their names added to a very long list of victims of horrible terror . (I read just this morning of another report that ISIS had burned to death another 45  people in an Iraqi town.) There was the shooting rampage in Denmark, the foiled terror plans in Canada, the murder of three students at the University of Connecticut.  Add to that the horrible news coming from Lennox, SD, where I’ll soon be moving, of a gunman who shot two people and then killed himself – all because of an argument over a delivery.

It’s all the kind of thing that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning.

I make no effort to make sense of senseless violence. You cannot explain or rationalize brutality like this. Sometimes, all it feels you can do is throw up your hands, keep your head down, and resign yourself to the fact that “lost people do lost things.”

But that is not the Christian message.

I don’t purport to have all the answers regarding evil and it’s place in the world.  I must leave that discussion to better minds than mine.  But I do believe that our faith has something important to say in the midst of such atrocities.

First, we must realize that evil is real, and we live in a fallen world.  Since Adam’s fall, all the world has been subjected to futility, and creation itself awaits the revealing of the sons of God in which it too will be released from its bondage to corruption (see Romans 8).  Suffering and violence, natural disasters and wars, these are symptoms of a greater sickness, namely, we live in world that subjected to corruption because of man’s sin and rebellion from God.

Second, I believe Scripture teaches that God has a purpose in everything, including the evil we face in this life.  Often it is hard to see and difficult to understand – and we may never find in this life the ultimate meaning that is hidden in the heart of sorrow, disappointment, and grief.  But we remember the words of Joseph to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20).  Even more, we see God’s providence working even in the death of Jesus Christ, who was holy and without sin, the greatest tragedy ever committed on the face of the earth, and yet through His death and resurrection, we find the salvation of all who would call upon His name (Acts 3:13-16).

Finally, we must remember, evil does not have the last word.  Though their powers may flare and cause us to tremble, though

this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear for, God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

We abound in hope, even in the face of evil, tragedy, and loss. We abound in hope because we know that because Christ has been raised in victory over death, those whose lives are hidden in Him have received that victory as well.  We know that no matter what we face, even if we are handed over for tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or the sword, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…” and nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31-39).

In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Christ has overcome!  Therefore, in good times and in bad, let us look to Him that we may be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

SDG