I often struggle with engaging people with the stances they take. Much of the time this seems to be because God holds me back and not so much because of my personality. I can talk with someone for hours on end that is willing to listen even if we don’t see eye to eye in the end. I often learn something from these encounters. Those that only want to propagate cliches, though, or dominate a “conversation” with a monologue of rhetoric, I rarely learn anything from.
I’m willing that my faith and beliefs be tested often, but many seem to only want others to accept what they believe as fact because it’s what they’ve always been told. This type of faith is often shallow though.
An example is the often quoted Rapture. The scope of this writing isn’t for pre or post-trib debate etc…it’s more of the general premise of why people use such phrases often.
The common expression I hear more and more is along the lines of: “Jesus is coming back…” Often this is followed up with guilt or condemnation against someone else such as: “…and I will be gone” as opposed to the other “evil” people that will be left behind.
What ends up happening, whether intentional or not, is an abuse of the Bible in an attempt to frighten others into submission to worldly religious leaders. This is in the same way the religious leaders were loading burdens onto others in the 1st Century (Matt 23:4). Fear, intimidation, condemnation—these all lead to hate, both the religious hating the non-religious and vice-versa. Anyone who doesn’t agree with the popular religious view is literally damned to hell. Jesus flipped this damnation on its head in the parable of Lazarus (the outsider) and the rich man (the self-righteous Jewish leaders—Luke 16:14). He placed the rich man in Hades while the outsider was placed in Paradise at Abraham’s (the Jewish forefather) side. The outsider inherited what was though to belong to the insider.
Our approach to others may be better received if it’s without condemnation, no matter how far in sin we might think they’ve fallen. It’s often at the bottom where people find Jesus. Such is life in the upside-down Kingdom. Many elevate themselves above others to say that they will be whisked away while “those others” will be left behind. We see in this instant, in order for me to be qualified, I have to compare my righteousness to that of others, the same as the Pharisees were doing (Luke 18:11). If my scorecard is better than theirs, if I’ve checked all the right boxes, then I get to proclaim that I’m “in” and therefore, since they aren’t playing by our rules (Isaiah 29:13), they are “out”. This leads to self-righteousness, that we’ve done all the right stuff to be qualified, and we have the right to decide who else is in or out.
Many may do this without realizing it because this methodology is all they’ve known and been taught. They hold up the Bible as the way to live while ignoring how Jesus lived.
I’m really torn. I desire to go to these people, yet they don’t want to listen to anyone except those that affirm what the want to hear. Jesus seemed to have the same problem and the same reaction (Matt 23:37-38). Paul likewise wished, for the sake of his fellow Jewish people, that he would be cut off from Christ (Rom 9:2-4)!
Paul’s statement above use to confuse me until I realized he wasn’t wishing himself to hell in their place. He would rather have suffered the coming judgment himself than for any of Israel to have to suffer it. This is quite a powerful gesture and this is what Jesus did at the cross. He was cutoff from the Father and suffered the wrath we were meant to for our sin.
Today, instead of having such a passion for others that we would be willing to suffer in their place, we condemn others to tribulation, or worse, eternal torment. How sadistic is that? As if there isn’t enough hell on earth now, we only look forward to torment and destruction of others as long as we can say our own hides are safe.
How is this “good news” of damnation and exclusion seen by those outside of our religion? Is this really the message Jesus delivered to these types of people?
It seems Christians use many fear tactics like this today in an attempt to scare people into righteousness. However, this only makes people conform externally and compare their level of righteousness to others, or it scares people away from wanting to know Father altogether. Either way, the result isn’t bringing others to Jesus.