The Royal Wedding was wonderful to watch and it also provided opportunity for some deep thinking about the sermon by Bishop Michael Curry.
The Good or Evil Trap
Things are rarely wholly good or bad and even though it is tempting to try and label something as good or evil it is rarely useful – I fall into this trap often – but it blinds us to the true nature of things.
We like to think that our heroes are perfect and then are crushed by disappointment when they fail and we like to think those that commit terrible sins such as adultery have nothing in common with us – yet that can lead us to become complacent and not being on our guard against sin.
Remember it is rare that a person simply wakes up and decides to commit adultery – it is the little steps that we need to watch out for. This idea applies to messages from Christian leaders too – Bishop Curry’s message is neither amazing nor is it awful – it has good parts but it has important flaws as well.
First the good, he spoke with conviction and passion – this is by far not the most important thing for a pastor to do but it is important – in 2 Corinthians chapter five verses 14-15 Paul says “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
The love of Christ compels us to tell others the gospel – just like when we get wonderful news that we can’t wait to share we should also be excited about sharing God’s word with people – it is exciting!
He also said some important truths about love. He mentioned that Jesus died because he loved us – “He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it” and he said that love is not selfish or self-centred but doing something for the good and wellbeing of others.
These are excellent biblical points about love – true love, the type of love which God shows us and enables us to show others. Love is not about feelings but to quote a favourite band of mine – “Love is a verb” (DC Talk). In John Chapter 15 verse 13 he says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Now, for the parts where he failed. Talking about God’s love is one of the most important things you can do but if you only talk about his love then it is like only drinking water and not eating food.
We must also talk about his justice, and his righteous judgement – as I once heard from a wise Christian, “It is the bad news that makes the good news good!” It is impossible to separate God’s love from his justice and judgement – a loving God has to punish those who do terrible evil.
If someone we loved was murdered, we would cry out for justice, we would not simply want the judge to say “It’s okay, I’m a really nice guy so I’m going to let you go”.
It was Jesus’ great love that took him to the cross, but it was our great need that caused that to need to happen! The sad reality is – it is not just people like murderers who need to be forgiven – it is all of us because we have all rejected God and sinned against him and others in our life.
The standard for heaven isn’t ‘good enough,’ or even ‘really, really, good’, it is perfection! Something we can never attain on our own but we can attain it by accepting God’s free gift of forgiveness, bought for us at the cross! This is not a popular message but it is the truth – as it is says in 1 Corinthians chapter one verse 18 “
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The second concerning point about Bishop Curry is that he was at a wedding that used a biblical liturgy that proclaimed that marriage is ‘a solemn, public and life-long covenant between a man and a woman, declared and celebrated in the presence of God and before witnesses’.
This is marriage according to the bible (Genesis chapter 2 verse 24, Matthew chapter 19 verse 6) – yet he is a passionate advocate for blessing same sex marriages. We need to be careful not to be swept away by the hype surrounding a Christian teacher without understanding their position on important biblical issues.
Finally, he said “When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.” It is true that God’s kingdom broke in when Jesus died and rose again and we do have the deposit of things to come (the Holy Spirit) but God’s kingdom is not fully here yet.
God does command us to love one another, be fair and honest in our dealings, and help the poor but that will never be done perfectly until Jesus returns. (Matthew chapter 26 verse:11, Revelation chapter 21 verses 1-8, Romans 8). Until that time humanity and the earth and all that is on it is stained by sin – God is bringing about change but it will never be complete until the final day when Jesus returns in power and glory to judge the living and the dead.
It is important to be able to hold up a pastor’s words (and actions) against scripture and as well as celebrating the good, to be on our guard against the bad so that we may live out and proclaim the truth – the whole truth – and nothing but the truth of the gospel!
Jessica McPherson is a Press Service International young writer from Christchurch.