Monday, March 2, 2009

Moral Positions and Rescue

Okay, meeting Jesus in Matthew 9:9-17.

As an evangelical and Calvinist Christian I struggle with two things that are difficult to reconcile, but which coexist perfectly in Jesus. Those two things are this: recognizing sin and evil as such, and reaching out to rescue people who are entrapped in those things.

I have said before that the way to deal with the broken sinner is with restoration, not condemnation. We are to be about rescue.

Jesus confronts people with different problems in different ways. In neither case does he discount sin. The two basic categories of people that Jesus addresses are the proud and the broken. The indifferent never appear on his radar screen --perhaps a topic for another post.

Jesus never sets out to break the broken. He does not break bruised reeds or quench smoking flax. Those who are broken find restoration. They do not find sanction for their sin, but deliverance from it (witness the Samaritan woman at the well). They know who they are and they agree with Jesus' assessment of them. They don't have to have it pounded into their heads. They know their guilt, and are hungry for forgiveness.

But, the proud are a different story. Jesus has hard things to say to proud people. His purpose is always loving --to show them they have no reason for pride, and to break them, and then restore them. To these people Jesus says hard things.

The struggle in preaching is this: some people before you are proud, and some are broken. What is more complicating is that some of the proud think they are broken (elder brothers who see themselves as the prodigal --thanks Tim Keller and Richard Sibbes for pointing that out). My own flesh craves the message of forgiveness even as I am sinning with a hard heart and a high hand.

And, the other complicating factor is upholding truth and righteousness. What if, upholding the BIblical teaching on human sexuality, both a denial of homosexuality and promiscuity. Some people out there are pursuing those lifestyles. Some are broken by them; some are hardened in them; all are destroying themselves and missing God's blessing.

The same could be said for every correct moral position: sanctity of life, business ethics, family relationships, gender roles, etc.

The answer of some is simply not to deal with those things, and just preach the gospel. But, this is not what Jesus or the apostles did. WHen Paul said he labored to know nothing but Christ and him crucified, it obviously wasn't to the exclusion of teaching on spiritual gifts, head coverings, sexual immorality or the Lord's Supper.

So, how do we do this? How do we uphold righteousness and yet preach grace? How do we reach sinners with the free message of grace, oppose the proud, and uphold the truth? Those are the three poles that all preaching must work within and balance.

May God make it so.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know the answer to any of that. I was struck by your prayer before the sermon yesterday morning -- that all of God's people would hear His word as they needed it (to paraphrase). Maybe that's the best place to start -- with prayer, as you acknowledged that only God can make it so. I know as a congregant that the mark of what the pastor is saying can be easily missed (by the hearer, I mean) and that really the way the Word gets into our hearts is by the Holy Spirit taking what we hear and helping it hit the mark so that if we're bruised, we can be healed, if we're prideful, we can be broken, and if we're indifferent, we'll wake up. Don't you think we're all a bit of both at times? I guess maybe some are more consistently one than the other...