Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nice or Real? The Character of God and the Calling of His Church

God is love. This one on the lips of an immature brother or a masquerading Christian usually means, "God is nice." The unspoken implication, of course, is that a nice God will have nice followers. And I'm sure that is exactly right. The problem is that the text does not say that God is nice. It says He is love.

God's love is a beautiful thing. It regenerates the sinner, cares for the widow and the orphan, and feeds the sparrow. But God's love can also be a pretty brutal thing. God's love killed Jesus on the cross. God's love chastises His sons. God's love saves many but, for His glory and in a way that only He can fully understand, refrains from saving most.

God's Church should reflect this love. God's Church should accept a person's profession of faith but expect evidence of fruit. Where there is immaturity or ignorance, God's Church should disciple. Where there is flagrant sin, God's Church should discipline, sometimes to the point of excommunication. The end goal is always restoration. But the idea of excommunication is God's...the same God who is love.

God's Church should be intolerant of sin because God is intolerant of sin. We should first hate it in ourselves. We should declare war on our depravity and be holy because He is holy. Then, we should expect our brothers and sister to hate sin, as well. When we see a fellow believer who is trespassing, we should gently restore such a one. There is no room for tolerance in God's Church. We are called to love what He loves and hate what He hates.

A nice church, on the other hand, will serve a nice God. She will accept a rainbow of depravity and call it "diversity". She will call God any name because a nice God will answer to any name. She will preach a nice gospel that removes a need for the Cross because it has removed wrath, sin, and hell.

The nice church is preoccupied with the world's opinion. She's the faithless bride who has already slept with a few of the wedding guests. She walks down the aisle winking from left to right and mistakenly assumes that nice guy at the altar is just her next conquest. But the groom, who has been defamed and blasphemed by her, will only have one thing to say to her. "Depart from Me. I never knew you."

The real Church, on the other hand, is preoccupied with God's opinion. She was also faithless, but she is repentant and forgiven. She has eyes only for her man. She loves much because she's been forgiven much. She has been His ambassador, defending His words and carrying His good news throughout a world who hates her. The groom looks at her and loves her. "Enter into your Master's happiness."

Thanks. I'll take real over nice any day.

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