[#] Nutter Entre

This would have been up earlier today, but I've been working on the blog template so that it will look better in IE since like 60% of you can't be bothered to download a browser that actually works properly. And I downloaded the beta of IE 7 and it doesn't do any better a job than IE 6 when it comes to css rendering, so if you're thinking about upgrading your browser GET FIREFOX because I'm not kidding when I tell you it's a lot better.

OK: have you still not read the original nutter post? Do you not understand that I keep linking you back to it because it is foundational to the rest of this week's content? Please just go read it already. I'll wait here.

As I let out of the bag last night, there's a character who haunts the meta here (he has asked me to note for the record "and has been banned", so there you go) who has asked me the question, "How do you create good will for Jesus?" And in order to answer his question, I have been looking over some other posts in the blogosphere and looking at some of the errors that these people are making when compared to the actual Gospel.

As some astute readers pointed out in the meta last night and this morning, one of the salient features of the Gospel is that it is foolishness and an insult to the world. Well, great. That wasn't very complicated, now was it? I guess that means you have time to go read Malkin or something now, right?

Actually, I think that's too-simple a view of the problem and a too-simple a view of the question which has been asked. If we are the bearers of His name, I think we ought to not view the world in merely "in" or "out" terms when most of the cases we encounter daily are actually problems in a range of possibilities.

Now, in the end, you’re either saved or your not, right? So I'm not falling off the apple cart here. The question is if everyone in the church is saved, and if every church is itself standing inside the Gospel which saves. It would be a much less complicated world in which to deliver the Gospel if there were only "Gospel churches" and "unsaved people" and nary the twain shall meet but on the mission field.

What we actually have is a diverse spectrum of entities manifest in this world that stand in some relationship to Christ – with varying degrees of flaws among them. From inside the scope of the Gospel, we ought to see that many people affected by the Gospel are more affected by the culture than by the Gospel – and they gravitate away from the Gospel and toward the culture.

But what that looks like from outside the Gospel is that there are some people who say they have the Gospel who are willing to be cooperative about the matter and "tolerant" or "civil" about it, and some who are inflexible and intolerant and show no good will. To those outside the Gospel, not only does the Gospel look like a bad idea, but it seems to them that many who bear the Gospel are not very good at sharing it because if they were, they'd be more like these ones over here that work hard to make peace with the culture.

That's where the question, "How do you create good will for Jesus?" comes from. It comes from the perception that Jesus ought to offer some kind of concession to people in order to get a fair hearing. If He were reasonable, and if His servants were people who really cared, they'd be finding ways to be more like me – more like I want them to be – rather than whatever it is that they are.

Listen: before I crescendo here, it is important to "get" something. One of the clear admonitions that Jesus gave to the Disciples was that they should love one another. We were not saved in order to create a pro wrestling circuit of drama and violence. There is no doubt that, on balance, Christians could be more Christ-like to one another.

What that does not mean, however, is that "Christ-like" equals "your clubbing buddy Jesus". It also does not mean "your very sensitive creative buddy Jesus". It also does not mean "your ethereal pseudo-buddhist goth buddy Jesus". "Christ-like" means something other than "like me and my friends": in fact, it means the opposite of "the kind of person I would hang out with".

The matter of Christ-likeness is fairly shattering because we can only understand Christ in the context of the Gospel. The Christ like whom we ought to be is the Christ who died for sins, and had the authority to take up his life again. He is not someone who imitated anyone but was in fact the standard which we ought to imitate. And in that, Christ's death teaches us that opposition to sin for the sake of righteousness is worth dying for. There is a sacrificial aspect to that statement, but there is also a love of justice in that statement which is completely lost on the contemporary observer.

And the worst case is when that observer is someone in that gray area in my diagram who thinks they are in the church, but the Christ they advocate is a Christ who doesn't oppose sin but simply overlooks it – in order to make people feel OK.

"Well, you are out of line, cent," comes the objection from the lurker. "Didn't the angels announce Jesus with 'good will'? I think you have no idea what you're saying, and you're just justifying your own snarky attitude."

That is actually a good question. In Luke 2, we read this:

    8And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. 11For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!

    12And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find [after searching] a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

    13Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying,

    14Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor].

    15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing (saying) that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. (AMP)
What the Angels were saying is that there will be good will among and toward the men with whom God finds favor or gives His grace. This is the same Gospel that is in 1Cor 15 or Acts 2! Good will is not the precursor or the messenger of the Gospel: it is the result of the Gospel. And frankly, anyone who has it backwards doesn't know the Gospel or preach the Gospel.

Now, why did I give all kinds of guff to Hugh Hewitt before I made this critical point? It is because Hewitt is indicative of this backwards Gospel preaching which advocates a backwards Gospel. God doesn't fawn over man in order to entice him into taking a gift which has eternal and universal value, and man as an advocate of what God does doesn't (and can't) trick other men by means of wiley methods and winsome words to rationally concede that God is God.

What happens is that there's this shepherd, and he has these sheep. And all the sheep know His voice, but if one of them is lost and unable to find the flock, the shepherd will leave the others in order to go and do for that one sheep what it cannot do for itself. The Shepherd will go and find that sheep, and carry it on His back, and bring it back to safety by His own means and work.

That is the "good will" of Christ: saving those who cannot save themselves, and doing it because He can and not because somehow the ones He saves have it owed to them. In that, recognizing sin as sin, and pride as pride, and human ignorance as human ignorance, and instability as instability, and so on, is being Christ-like.

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