Grace For The Journey
I have two sentences that I want to commend to you as biblical, true, and loving. My prayer is that if you embrace these two sentences – if you treasure them and are unashamed of them — they will have three long-term effects on your life.
- They will help you be formed decisively by Scripture rather than by culture.
- They will help you clarify how Christians are to be involved in the world while being radically different from the world.
- And they will help you keep God supreme in the forefront of your life and hold fast to Christ as absolutely crucial.
Both of the sentences are designed to prick the conscience of one group of Christians and call out the unbelief of another group of Christians, and, I hope, bring clarity and conviction and courage and joy to you. I’ll mention both sentences and then try to show how the Bible points to them.
- Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.
- Christians care about all injustice, especially injustice against God.
I use the phrase “care about” – care about suffering, care about injustice – because I am not saying that all Christians agree on the best strategies for how to address all suffering and all injustice. We will debate those strategies until Jesus comes.
What I am saying is more basic: Christians care. Suffering and injustice move us. Touch us. Awaken some measure of compassion, or indignation, or both. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about these issues
1. Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.
You can see this caring in John 10:13. In this verse, Jesus tells us that the hired hand who is not a shepherd “cares nothing for the sheep.” He just wants to get his pay and live his self-absorbed life. He does not care.
The Bible refers to this concept again in John 12:6 where John talks about Judas when he complained about money spent on Jesus’s anointing: He complained about this “waste, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).
Christians are not like hired hands, and they are not like hypocritical, religious thieves. Christians care about all suffering, all injustice. We are touched. We are moved. Our hearts lean in toward relief, protection, and justice. If we don’t, we are not acting like Christians.
Suffering Stirs Us
Let’s consider these two sentences one at a time.
Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.
Christians care about all suffering. All is intended to prick the conscience of Christians who believe that caring about the suffering of disease, malnutrition, disability, mental illness, injury, abuse, assault, loneliness, rejection, calamity – this caring has to be restricted, because caring about these kinds of suffering might distract from, and diminish, our commitment to the gospel of Christ crucified and risen, and from the greater need of rescuing people from eternal suffering through faith in Jesus.
And the first point of this sentence is to say, “No.” Christians care about all suffering. Jesus is our model. Over and over in the Gospels the Bible says, Jesus cared . . . He felt compassion . . .
- On the harassed crowds (Matthew 9:36),
- On the sick (Matthew 14:14),
- On the hungry (Matthew 15:32),
- On the blind (Matthew 20:34),
- On the leper (Mark 1:41),
- On the demon-possessed (Mark 9:22),
- On the bereaved (Luke 7:13).
And when he told a parable to teach us what he meant by “love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27) He said, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion” (Luke 10:33). He cared. This disposition of the soul to care is included in the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
So, Christians care about all suffering. But the caring does not end there … Christians care especially for eternal suffering. Let me break the last part of that sentence down so we can understand it better.
Especially — this is intended to call out the practical unbelief of those Christians who either don’t believe there is such a thing as eternal suffering, or who convince themselves that it is more loving to care for a person physical needs and not be too concerned about warning people about their eternal destiny and not to plead with them to escape it through the provision God Himself has made in the cross of Christ.
In either case, practically,
They don’t care about eternal suffering.
But Jesus did.
In Matthew 25 He warned us that it was coming: “Then the King will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ . . . And these [on his left] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41,46).
Paul shared the same conviction and warned us in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, “Those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” And John – the apostle of love – warns with the strongest language of all in Revelation 14:11, “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.” Jesus, Paul, and John had a God-given compassion for people and this led them to really be concerned and cared about whether people suffer eternally or rejoice eternally.
Someone once asked, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them?” Millions of Christians, including many missionaries, have convinced themselves that they are loving lost people by caring mostly about their suffering in this world, and little about how they will spend eternity. May God help us all to care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.
2. Christians care about all injustice, especially injustice against God.
I just read an article about reaching an unreached people group. It began by mentioning the beneficial earthly effects of missionary work — education, medicine, prosperity, written language — and ended with a focus on earthly human flourishing, with one passing mention of Jesus in the middle.
No God. No wrath. No cross. No salvation. No forgiveness of sins. No faith. No hell. No heaven. No eternal joy with God. Whether the article was accurate or not, this is what was held up as a model of missionary success.
My prayer for you is that . . .
You will absolutely reject this either-or mentality:
Either relieve suffering now
Or plead with people to escape eternal suffering
Into eternal joy through the gospel of Christ.
I hope you will say No to that soul-destroying dichotomy – and even the prioritizing of temporal well-being over eternal well-being. I hope you will say – and display – for the rest of your life:
Christians care about all injustice,
Especially injustice against God.
Christians care about all injustice. All is intended to prick the conscience of Christians who, because of self-indulgence or fear, have dulled the capacities of their hearts to care about the injustices of the world — all the countless ways that people, all over the world, are treated by other people worse than they deserve.
I say this is from “self-indulgence” because I think most indifference to injustice among professing Christians is not owing to convictional partiality or opposition, but rather to the moral stupor that comes over us when we are satiated with the comforts of this world.
But the dulling of our care about injustice also comes from fear of man – fear that some group will put a theological or political label on us that would be misleading and offensive. And so, we convince ourselves that indifference to injustice is a price worth paying to maintain a certain reputation.
But in fact . . .
Christians do care about all injustice.
Because all justice is rooted in God.
The Bible is clear about this truth.
- In Deuteronomy 32:4, the Bible says, “The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice.”
- In Psalm 33:5 and 99:4, the Bible says, “The King in His might loves justice.”
- In Revelation 15:3, the Bible says, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!”
- In Revelation 16:7, the Bible says “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”
- In Matthew 12:20, the Bible says, “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench, until [Jesus] brings justice to victory.”
And from the justice of our God and Savior flow His commands to us:
- “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
- “By the help of your God . . . hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” (Hosea 12:6)
- “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
- “Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.” (Luke 11:42)
If we neglect justice, if we do not care about all injustice, we are not acting like Christians. Because Christians care about all injustice.
And we care about all injustice, especially injustice against God. Let me also break down the last phrase of that sentence so that we can better understand it.
Especially – this half of the sentence is intended to call out the practical unbelief of Christians for whom injustices against humans ignite more passion in their hearts and in their mouths than the global tragedy of injustice against God. And it also aims to call out the practical unbelief of Christians who are so anesthetized by the comforts and entertainments of this world that they don’t care about injustice against man or God.
God is infinitely deserving
Of complete worship
And trust and obedience.
Injustice is to treat someone worse than they deserve from other people. And the more respect they deserve, and the less we render, the greater the injustice.
God alone deserves the highest respect
And honor and praise and love and fear
And devotion and allegiance and obedience.
Yet every single human being has fallen short of this worship, and exchanged the glory of God for the creation (Romans 1:23; 3:23).
Therefore . . .
Every human being is guilty of an injustice
That is infinitely worse than
All injustices against man put together.
God is infinitely deserving of complete worship and trust and obedience. Therefore, in treating God as unworthy of our total allegiance, every human is guilty of an infinite injustice against God.
This injustice against God came to a climax in the very moment when God Himself, in great mercy, and without compromising His justice, came in human flesh to save us from the just penalty of our own injustice against Him.
The Bible tells us in Acts 8:32-33, “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opens not his mouth. In His humiliation justice was denied Him.”
And as God embraced infinite injustice against Himself, He purchased a people who would prize above all things Christ crucified as the vindication of God’s justice, and the forgiveness of our injustice against Him. He embraced injustice against himself to create a brokenhearted, bold people called Christians who would be marked by these two God-centered, Christ-exalting sentences:
Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.
Christians care about all injustice, especially injustice against God.
I pray that you will treasure them, be unashamed of them, and live by them for the rest of your life.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”