I am bad and that is good, I will never be good and that’s not bad, there’s no one I’d rather be than me – Wreck-it Ralph
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. – The Apostle Paul
I’ve got to press into this some more because we tend to gloss over the idea. Yeah, yeah, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, right? So, I’ve got to get real and specific with you and show how the other paradigm is at work. Some real life examples.
Let’s say that you’ve found out that your spouse is having an affair, your spouse has a porn addiction, you’ve been raped, one of your kids has been stealing from you, you are being abused, you are abusing someone, you’ve divorced your spouse, or your spouse has divorced you, you’ve aborted a baby, you’ve been abandoned, or you have abandoned one of your children. You name it, okay?
Now, let me be very clear. I’m not glossing over these offenses. If you are a victim of someone’s sin against you, or even a sin against yourself, I’m sorry. Very sorry. You have been offended. You have suffered a tragedy. You will need to grieve, you may need counseling, you will need to recover. Sometimes this means years of working through difficult situations. Sin is serious, and it is destructive, and evil.
I’m going to spend some time discussing sin later but for now, let me just say that sin is serious. I’m not making light of it.
But take an offense and hold it in your mind. Or, maybe you have in your mind something like this, “If I found out my spouse was having an affair, there’s no way I could ever forgive him (or her)” Or, maybe there is some other offense you consider unforgivable, fill in the blank.
Keep that offense in your mind… How in the world could Paul say, ”
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Or better yet, Jesus, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)”
Forgiveness. Do you see how the paradigm that I am proposing, that the gospel, the good news, is proposing, is so opposite of our normal paradigm. It literally changes everything. Let me put it a different way. If I believe that good people do good things and will be rewarded and that bad people do bad things and will therefore be punished, then I believe that the bad that I’ve done or will do, isn’t as bad as the bad that that bad person has done. And that may be true, but it’s the wrong paradigm. It’s actually the opposite of the gospel. I’m putting myself into the good group and in effect saying I don’t really need a savior, I don’t need Jesus… Or at least not as much of Jesus as this other guy or girl.
When I put myself into the other category, the worst of sinners, I need God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, which in turn is the only basis for my forgiveness of others. Operating out of the good people/bad people paradigm puts me into the category of the pharisees, the stone throwers. When I operate out of the there is no good person paradigm, I meet sin with compassion, grace, understanding, and forgiveness because I realize just how much I need these directed towards myself.
This is essentially the argument that Paul lays out in Romans 1. Read Romans 1 and 2 and let me know if you get something different. The opposite paradigm is our normal mode of operation, the bad people deserve bad things, they deserve judgement, and we, mankind get to dole out the punishment. God’s paradigm, I would argue, is that we’re all in the bad group, deserving judgment, and God is the one who gets to do the punishing, should he choose to.
I’ll come back to some of these topics, but I want you to see how this effects everything. There can be no such thing as a Christian government. There can be no Christian judicial system. There can be no schools that operate under this paradigm. There can be no leadership structure, corporations, even church leaderships that operate in the paradigm of Jesus, and here’s why. (Side note: you could have these structures, these institutions operate out of a Jesus paradigm, it just wouldn’t make sense or seem right to us)
Let’s say you find out that the CEO of the company your working for has been stealing money. Grace would say, I forgive you. Grace would go even further to say I’m going to let you keep your position as the CEO and give you the freedom to steal some more. That is literally what forgiveness in Jesus Christ looks like. But that’s not how our structures work, is it?
And, let’s be honest, I’m thankful. What would a Christian judicial system look like if it told criminals, “your forgiven, stop misbehaving, and we’re going to give you the freedom to commit the same crime again.” The good guy/bad guy paradigm works really well here on this planet, and again, I’m thankful. It’s just not God’s paradigm. Which is what makes God’s paradigm, the paradigm of grace, just so amazing. It really doesn’t make sense to us, but it really is true.
What I’m proposing is that there are two different paradigms, two different world views. There is the good person/bad person paradigm, and the there is no such thing as a good person paradigm. The good person/bad person paradigm is how people, people groups, civilizations, leadership structures, even family structures operate. Again, I’m thankful. We need structures. We are drawn to this paradigm because it’s fair, it’s just, it creates a sense of safety in this unsafe life. But, I’m arguing that it’s not God’s paradigm. It’s not how He view’s things. Jesus’ words are the biggest indicator of this. My second proposal is that we have been applying the good person/bad person paradigm onto God. It’s created quite a mess. And, I hope to show why.
Finally, I’ll propose that living within the all bad people leads to all of the things that the good person/bad person are pushing to accomplish. Love, grace, understanding, peace, equality, hope, true freedom, kindness, truly can only come from the understanding that we are receivers of the same.
I don’t know. Let all of this sink in. Think about the offense you have suffered. Think about the unforgivable offense you have set up in your mind. Apply both paradigms and ask God which paradigm he operates out of in your life. I think the better perspective is to view ourselves as “the worst of sinners”.