...just as I am...??
Bill Muehlenberg lives in Melbourne, here in Australia. He was born in the US. He is an ethicist and blog-writer on many subjects, and weighed in on Monday on the subject of homosexuality. The reason?
Bill's article is here: Bill
The Christian News article is here : News
The woman at the centre of the storm is Vicky Beeching, a pretty blonde lesbian from the UK. And a Christian singer and worship leader.
The thing that struck me was the language of both, Vicky is reported to have said this:
“What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love,” Beeching stated. “I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people.”
Muehlenberg takes exception to this with his comment, “He doesn’t love people just as they are. In fact, He loves people too much to leave them just as they are,” he stated. “People just as they are are sinners alienated from God and headed for a lost eternity. A God of love could never just sit back and allow that to happen. That is why Jesus came and died a cruel death on a cross for our sake, so that we don’t have to remain as we are, but we can become what we were meant to be.”
I'm trying to see if I missed something and it appears that the issue of 'Just as I am"is the sticky wicket. If I say that God loves people as they are, without their need to change to please Him, then am I saying that our sin should remain with us? If I say that God welcomes people 'just as they are' into church or the community of faith, does that then justify how they have lived until then and will remain?
My mind rushes to biblical examples and I find an encounter or two between Jesus and people in what are called The Gospels. First a woman caught in adultery. (The story is found in chapter 8 of the Gospel of John.) Not a good place for her in a small village, she was caught in bed with a man not her husband. In that society at that time, she would have been stoned with rocks. The religionists of the day tossed her in front of Jesus as he was teaching a Bible group, and said, "Moses instructed us to stone such a woman; what do you say?"In our modern debate, would he love her just the way she was or would he add his voice to the 'stone her!' mob?
Her accusers are long gone; Jesus could have either made her jump through some religious hoops to prove some measure of sincerity or he could have dismissed her out of hand. He could have welcomed her as is, and as she would remain, or ...he had many choices. What he did not do was to dismiss her. What he did not do was to tell her that adultery was acceptable. What he said was basically, 'you are wrong, stop doing wrong. I'm on your team and will help you live a clean life.'
Another example is a man who was executed next to Jesus the day they both died in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. The 'thief on the cross' was a problem to society and the punishment for his perpetual stealing was crucifixion. And there were two of them that day, one on either side of the man Jesus.
Real criminals really know they are really wrong and deserve punishment. And one of them did just that. Luke records the moment this way, "When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Chapter 23.33-34).
One of the criminals heard that, with his heart, his ears opened, and his reality being shaped by the Messiah. We read "One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."(Luke 23.39-43)
Messiah Yeshua looked over to the thief on the one side and forgave him of his misdeed; there was no time to change and become a good citizen. He was going to die in minutes. God forgave him his sins and welcomed him into eternity 'just as he was.'
The clear teaching of the Bible is that you cannot clean yourself up enough to become righteous. All our 'righteous deeds are like filthy rags' according to the prophet Isaiah. (64.6) God is not able to be impressed by our good deeds.
And then when He does save us, and make us His, then He begins a clean-up operation to change us from the inside out. He changes our hearts. He changes our speech. He changes our attitude. He changes our sexual activities. He changes us from the inside out.
I like that God keeps things in tension. Yes, He loves us and wants to change us; yes, He welcomes us as is and says 'I think I can make that person understand. Eternity-- I'm glad God has it under control.