Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Liberals and Conservatives Unite in the Words of Christ

"Neither do I condemn you. 

Go and sin no more."

These words of Jesus, recorded in the gospel of John chapter eight, were to a woman caught in the very act of adultery. Readers of scripture today want to romanticize the story and feel sorry for the adulteress assuming that when in the presence of the Son of God she was humiliated and repentant. Yet, there is no hint of remorse or repentance in the text when she was thrown at the feet of Christ. 

What we know is that, repentant or not, Jesus gave her some astonishing words of healing.

The story is to tell more about the gospel than the adulteress. Jesus' words are for all of us who have divided our spirit with unnatural actions by engaging in masturbation, watching pornography, lusting, fornicating, living in sin before marriage, engaging in homosexuality, using contraception, having abortions or engaging in adultery. When we do those things we are shattering our souls and our lives, dividing ourselves from the truth and what is beautiful and good. 

Because so many of us, the majority of us, are enslaved to some degree in sexual sins like the woman caught in adultery, the topic has divided us between the Christians who wish to show abundant mercy to the sinner and downplay the "sin" part and the Christians who wish to show justice and obstruct the plague of sexual sin from ruining the world. 

Think about it. 
You don't find Christians arguing that thieves should be understood and that since stealing is so prevalent we need to remove the social stigma from kleptomania. Christians do not have heated theological battles over murderers being too harshly judged. But sexual sins have deeply divided Christians. Sexual sins have tempted and tested each of our hearts, so when we see others falling to sexual sin it touches our compassion button.  Our empathy manifests itself as either a passionate need to make excuses for the sinner or a passionate need to rescue the sinner with words of warning. And Christians--on both sides--look at the other's reaction to sexual sin as heartless because it is either too judgmental or too irresponsible. 

Yet in this biblical scene, if we look closely at Christ's words to the adulteress we will find the answer  as to how to deal with sexual sins that will draws Christians into unity, rather than separate us into conservative and liberal. 

Jesus said:

"Neither do I condemn you."

Here's the heart of liberalism. The good news of the gospel doesn't condemn, it redeems. It is a comforting gospel. This is what all wounded people crave to hear, for the natural law grates at our consciences and fill us with hopelessness and self-loathing. We need rest from the slavery of sin and we long to hear these words of mercy. The liberal has a soft heart for the frailty and loneliness of mankind. They feel for the addiction that results from that the tragedy of human imperfection and heartbreaks we all survive. They understand that temptation is often overwhelming and that self-discipline in a world that screams we have the right to pursue satisfaction is almost impossible. They feel the immediateness of human weakness.  

This is the heart of the liberal--mercy, hope, charity. Don't scold the hungry and downtrodden. Feed them.

"Go and sin no more."

Here is the heart of the conservative. It is a positive approach to the gospel even if it seems harsh to some. It's spirit is found in the solution to the problem. The good news of the gospel empowers us to break free from the sin that has us in its grip of enslavement. The Cross sets us free. The conservative commands, "Kill the sin, kill the demon that is destroying those we love! Go! Sin no more!" It is a gospel of the power of salvation.  There can be no mercy, no charity without eradicating sin. 
We can be holy and happy! There is no way to achieve joy and peace without turning from sin. 

This is the heart of the conservative--freedom, joy and peace. Warn the hungry and downtrodden and teach them how to never be hungry and downtrodden again.

Did Christ pit the liberal and conservative against each other? Is one theology superior to another? No. Jesus binds these two perspectives together and unites them to show the fullness of the gospel. We need mercy, hope and charity. We also must have freedom, joy and peace. These two make the perfect marriage. We cannot allow the dark forces to try and divorce these two unified pieces of theology. They must be taught together. There is no good guy or bad guy here. Both of these are truth. 

Let the conservatives and liberals embrace each other in love and mutual respect. Both are needed and both are important to the full gospel.