Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
“I came to the point that I realized my theology condemns 92% of the worlds (sic) population. There’s something wrong with that.” –Crystal S. Lewis.
This smug and confused young lady, wonderfully made and loved by God, should not to be mistaken for the Christian singer Crystal Lewis, who rose to popularity in the Eighties and continued to have hits into the last decade. We now pause for a brief but beautiful non-commercial interruption:
A Facebook friend, and my former pastor, Jim Palmer, who is something of a minor mover and shaker in the Emergent Church movement, posted the quote above from the former Ms. Lewis on his Facebook wall. Comments like these are part of a recently rising tide of universalism in America. Darlings of this movement, like Rob Bell, author of the bestselling book “Love Wins,” insist that a loving God wouldn’t condemn people for not accepting His plan of redemption, either because He has no single plan, or because He will never shut the gates of Heaven, period, for anyone throughout eternity who decides they could find use for a god, after all.
On one part of this point, I might agree. Maybe God doesn’t condemn people.
The words of Jesus, though, are clear.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Ms. Crystal S. Lewis is, as usual, about half correct, which makes her conclusion entirely worthless, except to note how far off base she is.
There is something terribly wrong condemning most of the world, but it may not be the theology Ms. Lewis has, in her enlightenment, summarily discarded. It is the way of men, the way of short term comfort, the way of mediocrity, the way of discounting the Creator, that condemns them.
And why do we have a problem believing this? Do we not see humans regularly run headlong and with full knowledge into an abyss of their own making, right here on Earth?
In all of this post-graduate pontificating and life coaching, have we not heard about the 80/20 rule of motivational and success psychology? I like to break it down a little further, and I believe it is true in just about any worthwhile endeavor. In any given pursuit – relationships, sports, religion, business, health – about 80% of us languish and subsist, at best; 15% of us achieve some level of respectable competence, and 5% of us blow the doors off of “it,” whatever “it” is.
Let’s just look at one example: mortality. About 50% of us in the United States die of some form of heart disease. 30% of us will die of cancer. There’s 80% right there. The 80/20 rule in action.
While genetics allow some of us to abuse ourselves in certain ways longer than others, the chances of either malady are primarily driven by our individual decisions and habits. Why, then, is it so hard to believe that the large majority of us choose our own ultimate destruction? Most of us having these discussions have spent a good portion of our lives condemning ourselves. That’s why we’re so interested in these matters. If we are so prone to this in the temporal, why is it such a stretch to believe most of us will continue into eternity?
There is a common theology out there that is poisoning the minds of God’s children and keeping them from realizing just who they really are in Christ, and how magnificent is their current position of strength, and how much they stand to inherit. It is the lie that if we just try a little harder, Jesus + our extra effort will make the Father happy with us. If we don’t falter too much. It is adherence to the Law, and not the Spirit.
In Christ Jesus, though, God the Father has provided a way for all of us to be reunited with Him, who is life. Jesus is that way. He stands at the door and knocks! He is waiting! His love for us is extravagant and urgent.
If we are condemned, then, that condemnation is from our decision not to make a way for God in our lives. When we choose to live without Him, we choose condemnation for ourselves, as we always have without Him, because He is the way of life, the truth of life, and life itself. If we end up without Him, we choose death by default. If we reject Him, He will grant us that existence without Him, whatever it is, that we have demanded. To those in that day who are given what they want, and for eternity, who will they blame then?
I will continue to speak the truth of the Gospel to the world, the good news about love and redemption for all who choose them. And for those who choose to “die once and after this comes judgment” without Christ, I will miss them. But of their fate, the God who sent His only Son to redeem them will be blameless.