For the last several years, perhaps even decades and centuries, society has been increasingly ignoring and denying the reality of sin. In June 2015, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court ignored the sin of homosexuality and decided to legalise gay “marriage.” Also, instead of giving transgender people the psychological help they need, President Obama wrote an executive order demanding there be transgender bathrooms, enabling their mental illness rather than recommending professional treatment. And the world gets upset when a zoo finds it plausible to kill a gorilla but doesn’t get upset at the thousands of unborn infants who are killed every day, getting upset at those who want to defund the evil Planned Parenthood rather than being angry with the murders taking place directly under our noses. And what has been the Christian response to all of these ungodly actions and behaviours? Certainly not the Gospel, but boycotting and yelling at people as they furiously type expletives on their keyboard.
I’m not writing this to discuss the rights and wrongs of the events described above. If you’re a true Christian, you already know what’s wrong in these cases. Instead, I’m going to be discussing our Christian responses to these events, or lack thereof, rather. When the government decides to ignore sin and instead enable it, we do have every right to be angry because the government and the citizens who are proponents for specific sins are choosing to believe Satan’s lies about sin rather than what God says about it. Satan says sin is just who you are, and because it’s who you are that makes it okay, so nobody should be able to tell you it’s wrong. God also says sin is who you are, but He also makes known to us that sin is unnatural, it corrupts, and it kills us (Romans 6:23); and He has given us the remedy to this condition in the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the Cross on which He took the wrath of God upon Himself rather than us having to face His wrath. And so, as Christians, sin no longer becomes who we are but rather how God sees us covered in the justifying blood of Christ (see Romans 5:1-11). So when people choose to believe Satan’s lie, yes, be angry, but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26).
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). When we express our anger over peoples’ decisions to sin or the government’s decision to enable sin, how are we exemplifying Christian love and preaching the message of the Gospel? Again, be angry that people are enabling and embracing sin, and be sad, but this by no means grants you permission to speak angrily towards people about their sin and boycott a company. Let’s be honest here. If you truly want to boycott, say, the Target corporation because of their failure to practise Christian principles, you will also have to boycott others like Starbucks, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your local grocery stores, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and many other companies and corporations whose products we consume on a daily basis. Basically, you wouldn’t be able to own a computer, a cell phone, a car, and any other first world luxuries if you were to strictly follow these boycotting principles.
This brings me to my point: Stop expecting the secular world to be Christlike! If you keep expecting secular, unchristian companies to be Christlike and practise Christian ethics, then you’re going to be living in constant disappointment and anger. If individual people, or an individual company, doesn’t believe Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour, why do we keep expecting them to practise Christian ethics? We should expect just the opposite! We cannot expect unbelievers to live by Christian morality because their worldview is directly against ours, so their actions against our Christian morals is simply consistent with their worldview. Why should we expect anything more than that? A man once told me, “If you stop having such high expectations of people, you’ll no longer be disappointed by them.” I don’t expect people to use their turning signal properly, so when they do, the surprise comes to be my joy and satisfaction. I likewise do not expect people to keep their promises (because past experiences tell me people prefer to gossip and betray your trust), so when people keep their promises, the surprise comes to be my joy and satisfaction. Unbelievers and unchristian companies do not hold to the godly standards we hold ourselves to. So it is foolish to expect such people and companies to practise our Christian moral principles.
So when we respond in our anger with boycotts and protests, we are pushing them further away from Christianity (i.e. the Gospel) because we’re not doing it in love, but in hate and anger. Jesus said people will know we are His disciples if we have love for one another. So when we express such hate and anger and boycott and protest in such a way, and they begin to question whether we’re truly Christian and whether God truly loves them and even exists in the first place, we can’t really blame them because it’s our fault. And they’re not far off, either. If our initial reaction is to express our anger in boycotts and protests, I wonder if we ourselves truly understand the Christian ethics we are so eager to defend. We think we are defending our Christian ethics and the Gospel in this way when we are failing the most fundamental principle of Christianity: love your neighbour. What makes us think the Gospel needs defending? God’s Word is a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). When people reject the Word of God, it doesn’t need defending and it certainly doesn’t need to be shoved down peoples’ throats. (When people attack God’s Word, however, apologetics is necessary.) If people peacefully reject the Gospel, they certainly won’t accept it if you go to war with them about it.
So what should the Christian response be? It’s not continuing to express our anger, it’s not protesting, and it’s not boycotting. Instead, our response should be the continual preaching of the Gospel. Jesus said the new commandment He gave us is to love others as He has loved us. This does not mean to accept sin, for Jesus said to the sinful woman, “Go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). Loving as Christ has loved us is not to accept homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, or any other sinful issue such as adultery, promiscuity, greed, gossip, or what-have-you. Jesus was adamant about sin: it’s damning, corrupting, and it kills you. He died for our sin, after all, so that we may no longer live in it. So, how did Jesus love sinners?
I quoted Jesus’ words in John 8:11 for a reason. John 8:1-11 is a beautiful example of Jesus’ love for sinners as well as His intolerance for sin’s hold over us. (So when die hard liberals say we’re being intolerant, they’re right, for we are intolerant of sin, and so we should be, since Jesus Himself is intolerant of sin. Yet although He is intolerant of sin, He still loves and forgives the sinner.) During this part of Jesus’ ministry, some scribes and Pharisees discovered a woman committing adultery, brought her before Jesus, and said that according to the Law of Moses, she ought to be stoned for her sin—to be punished and killed, for this punishment is deserving of all sin. Here, Jesus says some of His famous words, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). He was saying, “If anyone here is sinless, let him condemn her and be the first to cast the stone.” The crowd, realising none of them were sinless, no one cast a stone and they all left. After everyone left, Jesus asks her, “Has no one condemned you?” (v. 10). When she says no one has, He says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (v. 11).
Jesus was not accepting her sin. He was not suddenly saying adultery is okay. After the people judged her to death for her sin, Jesus brought to the peoples’ attention their own guilt in their sin. Since, according to God’s Law, this woman justly deserves death because of her sins, so does everyone else in the crowd. Jesus made them realise all sin is condemnable under death, and all receive the just punishment for their death in sin (Romans 6:23). So He doesn’t dismiss the reality and seriousness of this woman’s sin, but by faith He forgives her and tells her to go and sin no more. I love this example of Jesus’ love because it shows He deals with our sin seriously (after all, He died for our sins), and it also shows that by His mercy and grace He commands us to sin no more, and only He enables us to do that. It is not something we can do by ourselves, especially by yelling about it and boycotting and protesting against it.
So, how do we love as Jesus did? Continue to recognise the reality and seriousness of sin, and make it known to people but not in anger or condemnation, but in love and meekness. Just as Christ dealt with the sinful woman lovingly and gently, so we are to deal with others in this same way. How are we bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) when we fail to exemplify all those fruits in our anger, boycotts, and protests? After Christ dealt with the sinful woman gently, He forgave her and sent her away with the command to stop sinning. We have already made known the sins of homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and many other sins. The world already knows we (and God) say these things and others are sinful. By continuing to preach about the sinfulness of these things—to preach the Law—is just beating the dead horse, so stop! Now is the time to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to live it out in our lives. We have not done this yet.
Let us attempt to bring these sinners into the Church to receive forgiveness in the sacraments of Absolution, the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism. This begins by preaching the ministry of reconciliation that has been entrusted to us (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). This message is as follows: We are sinners and enemies before God, deserving the just punishment of condemnation; but Christ took our place to face God’s wrath on the Cross by dying for our sins, thus reconciling us to God. Because of this, Christ calls us to Himself to forgive us and thus demands we sin no more because sin corrupts and kills us. Continuing to express our anger, boycotting, and protest is not the ministry of reconciliation; it is a ministry of animosity, one of which that belongs to the Devil. Only the reconciliation that comes from Christ alone brings us into union with Him and thus enables us to forsake our sin. Animosity, on the other hand, is a hindrance to this reconciliation.