We as Lutheran Christians rightly understand that a person is born sinful. This is something that the Scriptures clearly teach, Ps 51:5, Romans 5:12, Eph 4:22 just to cite a few. When one considers what sin and evil is though, one confronts a more difficult question. The theologian John Stott, called sin and evil selfishness. This, I think, is a good way to clarify, especially when one considers the events in the Garden! Eve and Adam turned from a perfect relationship in which they received everything that they could want from their maker, to one in which they relied on their self, both in gratification and justification. Notice there are really two different ways to view this evil, but more on that later. The Fall was truly a rejection of God so that they could be their own god. Jesus came to restore, to bring creation and mankind back in unity and harmony with their Maker. N. T. Wright states, “The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of the final putting-to-rights of all things.” Acts 3 says,
19 “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago”
When Luke writes, “until the time for restoring all the things” he is speaking about judgment day. Christ came to restore all things, the His life and Resurrection are the first fruits of this restoration. You by Faith in Him are drawn into the work of Christ as he restores all things!
The question that should always be asked is, “How should the church go about being witness to the restoration that God offers?” There are really three very distinct methods that the church has undertaken.
The Roman Catholic Church utilizes the Law. You in the end must do, “If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.” (Canon 14). Anathema is a formal curse by a pope or a council of the Church, excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine.
In Evangelical non-denominational teaching you hear first the Law, this is right and good in that a person who has no knowledge of their own sin cannot understand their need for the Savior. Following the Law you will hear most teach in a message designed for seekers, the presentation of the Crucified and Resurrected Christ, the Gospel. This also is good and needs to be shared! However what comes next is often filled with potential for harm. The Church often begins a steady diet of, “living the Christian life” teaching. While this must be preached unfortunately this teaching is many times divorced from what Christ has done, leading the oppressed to feel that they must show that their faith is real by holy living. This leads many to lives of guilt. This guilt springs from the fact that Christianity for the person has turned into a “have to” and not a “get to.” Many exasperated folk turn away and believe that they cannot “do” Christianity.
If this is you, the message that you need to hear is Christ, “It is finished.” In fact you live under a banner of “it is finished!” Totally… 100%…Done! The solution to how to share the Christian faith is Law followed by pure, naked, scandalous, radical Gospel.
One reason for all this is that we even as a church still struggle against the natural man. Earlier I spoke of Adam and Eve, that they relied on their self, both in gratification and justification. I think that we can clearly see that there are two ways to view evil. One thing the Church is somewhat good at preaching against is the gratification! We are good at preaching against the bad stuff of this World; Gossip, Rage, Anger, Lust, Cheating, Murder, Stealing. Not that the Church should not preach of these things, but the Church should not view the sum total of evil as the gratification of our sinful desires. There is another more sinister evil afoot. This is the evil of justification! Satan’s most devilish work was to convince humanity, to convince you, that you are what you do, you are what you have and you are what others think about you! That you have to muster up something based on you, that justifies your existence. This is something that the church might speak against, but every church still somewhat operates under this mindset, due to the fact that it is led by people who still feel that they have to explain to the world why they are a valid human being! One of my favorite statements explains what the salvation of Christ gives is written by, Henri Nouwen,
“The life of Jesus refutes this dark world of illusion that entraps us. To return home is to turn from these illusions, from dissipation, and from our desperate attempts to live up to others’ expectations. We are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not what others think of us. Coming home is claiming the truth. I am the beloved child of a loving Creator. We no longer have to beg for permission from the world to exist.”
The Gospel is so simple, but it is so very difficult for us to understand.
It is almost like it is all about Jesus!