Today, I read an article by someone preaching about a type of “Jesus”. I found a great deal of truth in the message, until he described a “Jesus” very different from the one I have a personal relationship with. This man’s “Jesus” sounded quite unloving and unmerciful, even toward those known as the “bride of Christ”. I cannot be for certain whether this message was intended for followers of Christ or not, but it was sent to me by one of the author’s own “followers”, knowing full well that I do profess faith in Christ. So, I am reading it, at least in part, to the church, the bride of Christ.
Now, I am a human bride to a human groom, and if my husband treated me the way this man claims his “Jesus” treats believers… um, I wouldn’t want much (if anything) to do with him. It really doesn’t make sense to me when people describe Christ as an abusive husband to His church, when this is not the experience I have had. This man’s message seems in total contrast to what the Bible says in Ephesians 5:25-27.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word,”
He “gave Himself up” for His bride. The giving of Himself on the cross is what sanctifies those who actively believe.
The writer I spoke of, said Jesus’ words are “terrible words”. Do you find these words of His terrible?
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” John 10:27-30
He doesn’t sound terrible at all. He sounds quite loving, protective, and caring to His bride, the church. The writer of the article also said of Jesus, “He is a terrible God, and He is coming to judge the earth.” When I read the word “terrible” again associated with God Almighty, I knew we weren’t worshiping the same deity because in Christ’s own words:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:16-17
Now, if this author had called Him a “just” God, that would be an entirely different story. God makes the rules, to be sure, but even He doesn’t go against them. He said that those who believe in His Son will have “everlasting life”… period. So why all the condemnation being preached upon the church by this man? 1 Corinthians 6:9 tells us that the “unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” This is followed by a list of sin that basically convicts anyone who has ever lived, which is why we are told, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
At one time I would get really hung up on 1 Corinthians 6:9 because it makes things sound rather hopeless all by itself. Even though verse eleven has some redeeming qualities, I kept thinking I had to “be righteous” somehow. Well, that was partly true, but there was no way I, in my own power, could attain righteousness. No matter how much I might try to “repent” or “do good” or “pray”… I wasn’t going to “be” good enough to be declared righteous by God. One day, through a teacher more wise than I, I was shown some passages that cleared the confusion. Our loving, merciful God inspired the writing of these words about a man from the Old Testament:
“And he [Abram] believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:6
Some versions say righteousness was “credited” to him. This man was clearly not without fault. He sinned, and yet the Bible says that his faith in God led to righteousness. If this were the only leg my rationale had to stand on, some might find it flimsy. Fortunately, Paul had much more to say on the subject when he wrote to the Roman church. I absolutely enjoyed studying Romans 4, please read it and see for yourself! It is quite clear that righteousness is by God’s grace through faith. We cannot make ourselves righteous, no matter how hard we try or how much condemnation we heap on.
I do not discount that the writer of the article has some truth to his words, but I don’t see Christ’s true message as one of fear, rebuke, and death alone. Yes, those who reject Him will be punished, but I believe God is balanced in His approach to His creation. Some people focus only on God’s wrath in order to scare others into servitude to an “angry god” (which usually lends itself to legalism and works-based religious practices, if anything at all). My human husband and I (his human bride) call these the “death comes unexpectedly preachers” because that seems to be the only message they deliver. As portrayed in the movie, Pollyanna, these preachers are often ignored because they offer no true, lasting hope.
Other preachers focus solely on “God is Love” and use it as a license to willfully live in perpetual sin. I certainly don’t believe this is God’s message either. Although, one could also argue that the other extreme also condemns the sinner to a life of perpetual sin because the message lends itself to human effort toward righteousness, which is unattainable. Both are only partly correct, they are each missing a crucial part of the truth. Yes, I, as a sinner, don’t deserve God’s love (mercy & grace). Yes, I deserve punishment for my sin. However, God lovingly and mercifully grants me everlasting forgiveness of my sin through His Son’s blood sacrifice and resurrection. By keeping this perspective, I can’t help but want to put my trust Him, which results in obedience through His power alone.
Returning to the issue of “the abused bride” (which is how I felt after reading that article), God does not desire for anyone to perish.
“The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (AB)
I would hardly call a mercifully patient God, “terrible”. He tarries Christ’s coming to give every opportunity to those who haven’t put their faith (trust) in His Son. Does He love and embrace sin, absolutely not, but He does love His creation. His tremendous love for us, is unmistakeable, if for no other reason than the fact that He lets us continue to live. God could withdraw His breath from us at any moment, but He waits because He is just and, as stated above, “not desiring that any should perish”. God could force us to worship and serve Him, but He wants us to willingly let Him in. Would you want a bride or groom that you had to force (or scare) to the alter? No, you want a spouse who willingly chooses to love you. That is what Christ seeks in His bride… the bride He is preparing a place for in heaven.
Be assured, beloved, Christ is not an abusive bridegroom, rather, He is the ultimate example of perfect love! He sacrificed Himself, for the joy set before Him, in order to redeem His bride. Praise the Lord, God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come!
Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. ~Romans 7:4 (AB)