Tag Archives: Love of God

Preaching against sin

We Christians have earned quite a reputation for making a front-and-center issue out of sin. (Let me be clear before I go further: Sin IS a serious issue. Not only does it kill and destroy, but it cost Jesus his life to free us from it’s poison).

But isn’t it curious that the Jesus of the Gospels seemed to preach so little against sin? (In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus never mentions the word “sin” even once!*) He never seemed to think it was necessary to lecture Zaccheaus about dishonesty, to confront the sinful woman about her prostitution, nor to have the good Father lecture the prodigal about his selfishness and debauchery. Instead Jesus went about inviting people into relationship, and seemingly forgiving them before they asked. “Come unto me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” “Believe in me, and you will never thirst again.”

Why do we assume that preaching the gospel means hammering on sin? Indeed, is “preaching against sin” even necessary to proclaim the good news? I’m convinced our neighbors already know about their sins. They don’t need us to point out their lies, their affairs, their selfishness and addictions. Most honest people are already painfully aware of their offenses towards God. (The exception seems to be religious people, who were the ones Jesus most often addressed about the subject). What our neighbors DON’T know is the love of a Savior who accepts them right where they are, the delight of being alive and adopted into God’s family, and the hope of a Kingdom that is making all things new.

It may take awhile to rebuild our reputation, but I believe it’s past time we hang up our fixation with sin and begin offering grace to the world.

* Since posting this, one friend pointed out that it depends on the translation. I was using the New American Standard Version at the time of writing.

Jesus and the one percent

This morning it occurred to me that the Gospel of Luke tells a delightful story about Jesus’ encounter with a 1%  Wall-Street-type rich man.

Jesus was passing through Jericho.  A man named Zacchaeus was there. He was the director of tax collectors, and he was rich.  (We’re traditionally reminded that these tax collectors acquired their fabulous wealth by extorting money from the “ninety-nine percent”).  He tried to see Jesus, but Zacchaeus was a small man, and he couldn’t see Him because of the crowd.  So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a fig tree to see Jesus, who was coming that way.  When Jesus came to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down! I must stay at your house today.”  Zacchaeus came down and was glad to welcome Jesus into his home.  But the people who saw this began to express disapproval.  (Maybe they made signs and occupied tents out in front of Zaccheaus’ house)?  They said, “He went to be the guest of a sinner.”  Later, at dinner, Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Lord, I’ll give half of my property to the poor. I’ll pay four times as much as I owe to those I have cheated in any way.”  Then Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “You and your family have been saved today. You’ve shown that you, too, are one of Abraham’s descendants.  Indeed, the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that  which was lost.”   (Luke 19:1-10)

The obvious truth lies in the details of how Zacchaeus was changed.  It wasn’t shame nor legislation that loosened his purse strings, but the love of a man named Jesus.  To my Christian friends tempted to “occupy” Wall Street, I remind you that the Kingdom begins not in anger and protest, but in love, witness, and the declaration of a new Kingdom.