We must note to that this lack of expression of the Kingdom of God has had a dreadful effect on our evangelism. Could it be that some of the intense opposition to the gospel that we see is a result of cultural clashes that are merely based in morality? Is it possible for this to in part explain the difference between the relationship between the church and the sinner and Jesus and the sinner? Jesus was always quick to deal with the root of man’s malady and He went right to it whether He was dealing with a religious Pharisee or a prostitute. While He never made any allowances for sin, He focused on the individual’s need of a transforming new birth over and above their present display for morality.
He offered that gift of transformation and we see that often the “worst sinners” found it easier to lay hold of than the religious leaders. Their failure so see their own inner depravity due to their understanding of their own morality blinded them and in their collective blindness they affirmed each other. Jesus understood what we claim to understand but fail to demonstrate which is that the root issue of man’s depravity is far more important than the individual’s present display of morality. When we really grasp that so much so that it affects our message, we might just find that many currently enslaved by sin will again see Jesus’ offer as a life line to be grasped at all costs.
This is what allows God to show mercy to a woman caught in adultery or send Jonah to Nineveh to reach out to pagans. While we do well to acknowledge Jesus’ requirement of the woman to “go and sin no more” we must also note His reaction to religious leaders, “let him without sin cast the first stone.” The issue was these leaders were making morality the issue. Jesus, on the other hand, addressed the universal depravity of man which condemned both the Pharisee and the adulteress. The issue wasn’t that her sin should be ignored, but that the root of depravity must remain the issue over and above the outward display of morality. Self confidence and self righteousness must go. His kingdom could not be built on morality and this was so fundamental that it was above the requirement of the law to punish the adulteress. That should make us pause and make sure we understand what Jesus was saying.
This is certainly not a rule, but often those who are challenging the moral norms of society are those best fit for the gospel. Because the gospel message is naturally counter cultural and at enmity with all earthly kingdoms, no matter how cultured or moral, it often resonates best with those that are willing to go against the grain and challenge empty, earthly kingdoms. The problem though is that we have not appealed to these because we have made morality the issue. They have not seen a church that is a demonstration of an age to come and is at odds with the very essence of this age.
Sadly, they see what we too often miss which is, though our theology perhaps be aright, in the end we place more evidence on our expression of morality than on the resident presence of God among a people transforming them into something radically different. They may not be able to articulate it, but they are calling our bluff. They are recognizing that we are moralists like every other religion, but they do not smell the scent of eternity and see men and women choosing to live as though there is an eternal kingdom that will break in at any moment. I am convinced there are many that are now the greatest enemy’s of the faith that would be converted if they saw this type of demonstration.
Could it be that we are so enamored with this age and with our selves that we merely want a cleansed version of ourselves and these earthly kingdoms? Could it be that we really are not either aware of the expression God desires the church to be or are not desiring as a people to be such a radical expression of other-worldliness? Could it dare be possible that God allows moral failures to be exposed within the church to cause the church to serious examine herself until she finally severs the root of worldliness and becomes a demonstration of an age to come?
When you look at those who violate God given morality, what do you see? Do you merely see an immoral agenda to be opposed or do you see an individual that is, at the root, just like you before God mercifully redeemed you? Can you look at a group of homosexuals or abortionists or even cross dressers and see a people among whom God desires to glorify His name? Can you admit that the same iniquity that demonstrates itself so perversely in them are dwells resident in you without the saving power of Jesus Christ? While I expect men given over to sin and iniquity to have great anger at the gospel, I cannot help but wonder if some of the anger might stem from the fact that they see what we do not and that is a people for whom morality is the primary issue rather than a demonstration of the unseen, eternal God.
If morality is the compelling issue among men then it is a level playing field. However, if there are a people that are a living expression of an eternal God, then that changes everything. True there will still be rage against the church, but it will be rage against Him and not merely against a moral code. (And yes, I understand that rage against morality is, at root, a rage against God from whom all morality flows).