Safely Home To God
February 18, 2018
1 Peter 3:18-22
The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants
who wasn’t known to be one of the brightest people in the world, was called in
for an interview. "Okay,"
began the sheriff, "First off, tell
me, what is 1 and 1?" The
applicant thought for a minute and replied "Eleven!" The sheriff thought to himself, "That's not what I meant, but he's
"Now, listen carefully, who killed Abraham Lincoln?" asked the sheriff. The job seeker seemed a little surprised by the question, thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, "I don't know." The sheriff replied, "Well, why don't you go home and work on that one for a while?"
The applicant left the room and headed over to his friends who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. With a big smile on his face the guy said, "The interview went great. The job is mine! And get this…the first day on the job and I'm already trying to solve a murder case!” Sometimes we just don’t fully understand what’s really going on. Sometimes we just don’t get it.
Did you know that there are people out there, and perhaps people in here who like the guy in the story I just told, don’t get it. They just don’t understand. There are people who think that they can’t come to God? For some reason or another, they think that they aren’t good enough. One man committed some terrible sins in the past and he was sure that God would never forgive him. He had taken part in some atrocious war crimes in the past and while they had happened years and years ago, not only was he never able forgive himself, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would never forgive him for what he did.
Another story is told of a very old man who was dying. All of his life he had rejected God and God’s ways, yet as he lay on his death bed he was offered God’s forgiveness, and God’s salvation and God’s eternal life; but the man refused it all saying that it just wouldn’t be right to wait to the very end. Sometimes we just don’t get it, do we?
How we picture God often times determines how we perceive ourselves and our relationship to him. Because of bad theology or misunderstood theology, many of us have a picture of God or have gone so far as to create a God that is something other than the loving, merciful God who “showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8).
We picture a God of wrath and vengeance; a God who pounds his fist on the table top and demands “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!” But along comes this guy named Jesus to challenge all these misrepresentations of God’s Old Testament images. The Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy both talk a lot about serious marriage violations. For instance, if a woman couldn’t prove to her new husband that she was a still a virgin on their wedding night, she was to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:21).
But along that same line, how radically different was the love that Jesus showed to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The men of the village were ready to stone her to death because of what she had done, when Jesus stepped in and said, “Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
While we may have various perceptions and ideas about who God is and how God acts, Jesus reveals God to us as a loving father who came into the world not to condemn sinners, but to save them.
Medieval European paintings have depicted God to be a very old looking, white male with a distinct scowl on his face; an unhappy looking man with a long white beard who has a warrior type helmet sitting on his head. From this distorted depiction of a grumpy, male chauvinist looking God have come atrocities of racism and other social injustices that were all committed in the name of ethnic superiority. From this distorted depiction of a mean looking male chauvinist God was born sexual discrimination that continues today throughout the world including many of our churches as women are still being excluded from various leadership roles.
By contrast, early first century followers of Jesus discovered a new type of God and with that newfound God came a new type of love, a love that could be describes as miraculous and unifying, a love in which “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians – you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Mankind has gone so far as to depict God as a “tribal God,” a God who has his favorites, a God who picks sides, a God who “is not only for us, but against the same people we’re against”…and from this we have created a God who we believe favors one nation over another…one person over another…one ideal over another.
We have created pictures and ideas of what we want our God to look like and how we want our God to be. We have created a God that fits our outlook on the world around us and we’ve put him in a neat little package that we’ve made. We’ve packaged a God that builds walls to keep us away from those that aren’t like us. We’ve created and packaged a God that is always on our side…a God is always “for us” and “never for them.”
We’ve created a God with blinders so that he can see only what we want him to see…because that way he can be the way we want him to be. Our God is a staunch Republican. Our God is a staunch Democrat. Our God is Pro-life. Our God is Pro-choice. Our God is for gun control. Our God is against gun control. Our God is for immigration. Our God is against immigration. He’s for this race, color and creed and against all the others. He’s for Gay and Lesbian rights. He’s against Gay and Lesbian rights. He’s for Notre Dame and against everyone else. He’s for the Bears and he’s for the Cubs and he wants everyone else to lose. He’s for these people and he’s against those people and on and on and on.
Maybe Anne Lemott summarized it best when she said, “You can safely assume that you created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you hate.”
Let me remind you that you didn’t create God…God created you. You didn’t create God in your own image…God created you in his image. Let me also remind you that God through Jesus didn’t come to divide us by building walls; instead he came to tear them down; he came to build bridges; he came to bring us together…and as we follow Jesus’ life and his teachings, we soon begin to uncover God’s true identity. As we begin to follow Jesus we soon begin to experience a God who values human relationships over legalistic doctrines as well as a God who values people (all people) over brazen ideologies.
Some people think that they can’t come to God; they aren’t good enough; they’ve made too many mistakes in life. They don’t believe what society tells them they should believe. They don’t act or look or live the lifestyles that society tells them they should live. Could it be that some of us are guilty of finding fault with others? In fact, they’ve been told it so many times that they have come to believe it. They have become outcasts to society. They have been beaten down and have no hope. They believe they are worthless and don’t measure up to God.
But look at what God did through Jesus in order to bring all people (not just some) to God. If we could grade sins on a scale of 1 – 10 (with #1 being the worst sin imaginable) what would you say would be sin #10? #5? #1? If we were to rank our sinfulness on a scale of 1 – 10 could we say that Jesus died for all sins that rank #6 and below but not for all sins that rank #5 and above? Could we say that Jesus died for those people who were guilty of committing lesser sins such as lying and stealing but not for those who committed rape or murder?
Jesus said that to look at another person with lust in your eye is just as bad as committing adultery. He also said that calling a person a “fool” is just as sinful as killing them. What you think in your heart and in your mind can be just as sinful as committing a sinful act itself.
The point is this - all sins, no matter how big, or how small, whether they are actually committed or even if they are just thought of, rank #1 in the eyes of God. In other words, if the rapist or the murderer can’t come to God, then neither can the guy who told a lie or the guy whose mind is full of hateful thoughts.
I don’t know what kind of God you believe in or what kind of God you follow – a God of wrath and vengeance or a white, male chauvinistic God who allows all sorts of racism and injustices to happen in the name of ethnic superiority or maybe a type of tribal God who is always on your side, a God who sees only what you see and likes only what you like and hates the rest of the world like you do. If these are the types of God you depict in your mind, then you are like the guy who thinks he’s on the road to solving a murder case because he was told to go home and find out who killed Abraham Lincoln. You don’t really understand…you just don’t get it.
You and I (We) don’t have much of a choice in the matter. You and I aren’t the judge and the jury. (We) don’t get to choose who gets to come to God and who doesn’t. We don’t get to define “sin” and we don’t get to choose who is sinful and who is not…and we don’t get to determine why they are sinful.
Jesus does that. Because of his sacrifice and death on the cross – he has overcome the power of sin…any sin…and he has taken away our right to judge others...and along with that he has taken away our right to determine who goes to heaven and who doesn’t.
Because of what Jesus did on the cross, nothing stands between mankind and God. No matter who you are, where you come from or what you have done or what you have been told…Jesus, the one who said “love others as you love yourself” has once again turned the world (and maybe your own little world) upside down by opening the kingdom of God to all people who want to come to him…even those that you don’t like for whatever reason and don’t think are worthy. Because of his love for you and for me and for all people, Jesus has torn down the walls and the barriers that separates us from them…he’s bridged the gap that once separated mankind…and despite what you think and I think and what the world around us thinks, he’s allowed all of us the opportunity to come safely home to God.