Grace For The Journey
I have two statements that I want to commend to you as biblical and true and loving. My persuasion is that if you embrace these two declarations, they will have three long-term effects on your life.
- They will help your thoughts, feelings, and live be formed decisively by Scripture rather than by culture.
- They will help you clarify how Christians are of use to 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 statements that I am going to discuss in today’s blog 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, conviction, courage, and joy to you. I’ll mention both statements 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.
When I use the phrases “care about suffering” and “Care about injustice” 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, and awaken some measure of compassion, or indignation, or both.
You can see this caring in the parable Jesus uses in John 10:13. In this parable, Jesus taught that the hired hand how is not a shepherd “cares nothing for the sheep.” The hired hand just wants to get his pay and live his self-absorbed life. It is clear – He does not care.
You can see it again in what John said about Judas when Judas complained about money spent on Jesus’s anointing: He complained about this “waste,” and John say in John 12;:6, “Not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief.”
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 are moved toward relief, protection, and justice. If we don’t, we are not acting like Christians.
Let’s consider these two sentences one at a time.
Christians care about all suffering,
Especially eternal suffering.
The word “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 — 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.
Our response to this should be, “No, Christians care about all suffering. Over and over in the Gospels the Bible teaches that Jesus cared . . . He had compassion . . .
- On the harassed crowds (Matthew 9:36),
- On the sick (Matthew 14:14),
- For the hungry (Matthew 15:32),
- On the blind (Matthew 20:34),
- On the leper (Mark 1:41),
- On the demon-possessed (Mark 9:22), and
- 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 that is not all . . .
Christian especially care about eternal suffering.
The word “especially” 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 not to warn people about it 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 25:41 and 46. 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.”
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 14:9-11, “Then a third angel followed them, saying ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out rull strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever . . .” They really cared about whether people suffer eternally or rejoice eternally.
Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) once asked, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them?”
Sadly today, a lot of Christians, including many missionaries,
Have convinced themselves that they are loving lost people
By caring mostly about their physical suffering in this world,
And little about how, or where, they will spend eternity.
I recently 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 need for the 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 for today 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. My prayer is that you will say “No” to that soul-destroying dichotomy – and even the prioritizing of temporal well-being over eternal well-being. I pray you will say — and display — for the rest of your life: Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.
Now, let’s consider the second statement, “Christians care about all injustice, especially injustice against God.
Christians care about all injustice. Again, the word “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. Look at what the Bible says about this:
- “He is The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice. A God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
- “For the word of the LORD is right; and all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.” (Psalm 33:5).
- “The King’s strength also loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” (Psalm 99:4).
- “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until [Jesus] brings justice to victory.” (Matthew 12:20)
- “Great and MARVELOUS ARE Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!” (Revelation 15:3)
- “And I heard another from the altar saying, ‘Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (Revelation 16:7)
And from the justice of our God and Savior flow His commands to us:
- “So, by the help of your God . . . Observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually” (Hosea 12:6).
- “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).
- “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).
- “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. The second part of this statement begins with “especially” – this 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 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, honor, praise, love, fear, devotion, 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 is guilty of an injustice that is infinitely worse than all injustices against man put together. God is infinitely deserving of complete worship, 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 describes this in Acts 8:32-33, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away . . .” 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 and to advocate of 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.”