Russel Moore already wrote what I wanted to say. But why not say it again? I got up to speak on Sunday and someone just happened to mention the shooting in Orlando to me. Like most of us I slept through one of the largest terrorist shootings in our history. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. I was actually speaking on Romans 14:1-12 which is about not judging. I don’t think there could have been a more apt context for me to be speaking on such a subject.
I was reminded that there was a time in our history when, unfortunately, some Pastors would get up and declare certain tragedies as judgment on certain communities. This has happened in the past and this has contributed to people viewing Christians as bigots. Quite frankly, I would have to agree. I do not know the mind of God and cannot comment on what is his direct involvement or what is simply men living out his own sinful choices. It is not our place to make such an assertion. What is our place is to get in line and donate blood. What is our place is to weep with those who weep. What is our place is to pray.
Christians mourn with those who mourn even if they disagree with a particular lifestyle. Christians do not desire the demise of any people. If you meet one who does tell him to go read his Bible again.
On Sunday I mentioned the encounter with Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. The very example of Jesus showing compassion. I know that this verse is trumpeted about how Jesus does not actually judge. What he actually does is not condemn, and it is better. The difference is subtle but important. The Jews brought the woman and fling her down at his feet in order to test him. They explain to Jesus that their law requires her to be put to death for her sins. Jesus at first ignores them, but after their persistence he says “Let he who is without sin thrown the first stone.” One by one they leave and then Jesus asks the woman “Where have your accusers gone? Is there none left to condemn you?” She replies “None Lord”. Then Jesus replies “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)
Jesus does two things here. Firstly he does not condemn her to death, but he does remind her that as a sinner she needed to repent. The difference is this. The Jews were asking him to condemn her to death by stoning. Jesus however refuses to do so, what gives? Were they wrong in their interpretation? Actually they were not. But the point was not that Jesus doesn’t care about Old Testament Law or even sin, but the point was he was doing something new.
“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Lev 20:10)
Apart from the conspicuous detail that the man was missing, they were right, but…
32 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer 31:31-34)
What Jesus was doing was refusing to act on her sin according to the Old Covenant. He was in the process of inaugurating the New Covenant. He wasn’t going to stone her because she was about to receive the opportunity for her sins to be forgiven really soon. Jesus essentially says to all of us.”Why should I put this woman to death when I am about to pay for the sins of the world?” He was addressing sins in a new way. But realize the point. Sin needed to be addressed. He said go and sin no more and thus recognize that sin was an issue, but don’t fret because he was about to take care of the penalty for it. He wanted a relationship with the woman, which is why he says sin no more. If he was willing to go to his death for people’s sins, shouldn’t we at least recognize that they do matter to him?
But it is important to realize how they matter, they matter in that the presence of sin points us to God. It points us to the need for a Savior. Jesus has changed the rules and none of us get to play the executioner. If someone is following a teaching that circumvents God’s plan then we should speak up and judge it as false, dangerous, and evil. When someone takes the law into their own hands we anger and weep because true justice was denied and the Gospel was undermined.
This is why Christians do not rejoice in any tragedy. We do not render the sentencing. We understand that sin is an issue, but this never stops us from showing compassion. We weep because God does not desire that any should perish. We weep because we know that many already have. We share the Gospel because like God we want people to be saved. We simply respond to the guilty verdicts on all of us and try to offer the forgiveness that God is offering. The woman caught in adultery needed it. We needed it. You need it too. We all do.
Church, let’s not get caught up in political agendas but actually minister.
We show compassion because God showed compassion to us. We pray for each other because we all need to find God. We hold each other in tragedy because we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the rulers and against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6) These are who we wage war against not our fellow-man. Our fellow-man is our neighbor and they need protecting and love. They need compassion and hugs. They need help in times of need.
Go and hug, minister, share, care, love, protect, weep, and one day we will get to the rejoicing.