The scandal of George Pell

Jesus never called us to condemn the sin of the world, but he did call us to confront sin in the church.

I’m devastated. When a church leader is exposed as a child-abuser, our nation has another reason to hate the church and despise our message.

Silence the excuses! It makes no difference whether you’re Catholic or Protestant. It won’t do to wonder if the courts got it wrong. A manager in the household of God has been found guilty of abusing the trust placed in them to care for the children in the family.

The nearest Jesus ever came to recommending capital punishment was this: Continue reading “The scandal of George Pell”

Those mega-church scandals

Yesterday Steve McAlpine posted on the scandals that keep recurring in our mega-churches. He wants to help us break the cycle by recognizing the shape abusive leadership takes:

The recurring central theme to these scandals is the manner in which a concerned, godly eldership is first enervated by an increasingly toxic church leader, then replaced by that church leader, before finally being excoriated publicly by that church leader, with the new leadership on stage leading the tomato throwing exercise. …

That’s the pattern.  It’s that simple.  You could throw it in with the seven or so Hollywood standard movie scripts that exist and it wouldn’t look out of place, so step-by-step, formulaic it is.

Why does this keep happening? Steve offers two suggestions, and I’d like to take this further. Continue reading “Those mega-church scandals”

Forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47)

If the gospel isn’t a message about personal guilt, why did Jesus commission his followers to announce “repentance for the forgiveness of sins in his name?”

My friend Tim Healy has responded with a great question. We’ve been emphasizing that the gospel of the kingdom is good news of the restoration of God’s kingship, liberation of the earth through his anointed ruler (Christ, our Lord). Over the last 2000 years, the Western church has veered towards a message about individual guilt. We need to recover the blazingly good news Jesus announced and enacted.

Here’s Tim’s question:

Continue reading “Forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47)”

The naughty child story

How does Jesus’ gospel differ from the way we present the gospel today?

Jesus announced good news. He was good news because he restored God’s kingship (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). He was good news for those who’d missed out (11:5). He was good news for the whole world (26:13).

To announce the gospel is to announce Jesus — God’s anointed ruler (Christ), Son of the heavenly sovereign (Mark 1:1). The way Jesus told it, proclaiming the gospel sounds like this: “It’s time! God’s reign has arrived! Turn to his authority! Place your trust in the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15).

Unfortunately, that’s not the gospel presented by many Evangelical/Charismatic churches today. What passes for the gospel sounds more like the story of a naughty child.

It goes something like this: Continue reading “The naughty child story”

What’s the unforgivable sin? (Matthew 12:30-32)

Ever worried you’ve committed the unpardonable sin?

Open Matthew 12:30-32.

You’re a baptized follower of Jesus, but you’ve blown it. Like, really blown it. Have you messed up your one chance to be saved? Have you committed the unpardonable sin? This question has troubled believers for 2000 years.

Are some sins unforgivable? How about these words from Jesus: Continue reading “What’s the unforgivable sin? (Matthew 12:30-32)”

When did Jesus label people “sinners”?

Christians are far too quick to label people as “sinners.” Do you know how Jesus applied this label?

When we label people as sinners, they feel insulted. We’re calling them a dirty name. Why do we do it? Typically it’s because we want them to feel guilty, so we can offer them forgiveness. Is that good news? Or is it trading in guilt? What did Jesus do?

Let’s find out. There are only 7 or 8 occasions where Jesus used the word sinner. A survey of when and how he used this label is very revealing. Continue reading “When did Jesus label people “sinners”?”

What’s with tax collectors? (Matthew 9:9-12)

Why did the poor old tax collectors get such a bad rap in the New Testament?

Open Matthew 9:9-12.

Remember when you faced that tax bill? How did you feel? It wasn’t like, “Wonderful. Now I can contribute to educating children, providing health services, enabling law enforcement, building roads and infrastructure and a bunch of other things to help our community.” Not likely.

Now imagine taxes are being levied by an occupying force. Your taxes are paying the army that killed some of your family and is crushing your people. How would the Dutch have felt under Nazi occupation during World War II? How do Iraqis feel under American occupation today? How would Jewish people have felt under Roman occupation in Jesus’ time? Continue reading “What’s with tax collectors? (Matthew 9:9-12)”

What about sin? (Matthew 9:2)

Why did Jesus talk about sin much less than we do? Is there something we should learn from him?

Open Matthew 9:2.

As you read the Gospels, are you learning from Jesus? To be a disciple is to become like the Master. Watch what he did that’s different from what we do. Close the gap where our understanding and practice doesn’t match his.

That’s especially important when it comes to the gospel. When people today present the gospel, we tend to start with the problem, identified as sin. We present Jesus as the antidote for sin, and then we ask people to sign up so they can have the benefit — the forgiveness of their sins. Sound familiar? Trouble is: that’s not how Jesus did it. Continue reading “What about sin? (Matthew 9:2)”

What was the sin of Sodom? (Genesis 19)

The city of Sodom is an image of sin in the Bible, but not in the way we use the word in English.

In English, the name Sodom is associated with a particular kind of sexual sin. Why are we preoccupied with one aspect of Sodom’s sin? That’s certainly not what Sodom connotes throughout the rest of the Biblical narrative. Of the 48 references to Sodom, you’d struggle to find a handful that focus on sexual sin.

Continue reading “What was the sin of Sodom? (Genesis 19)”

Who’s in charge now? (Genesis 3:1-14)

Genesis 3 is strange to our ears. Why is there a talking snake? Why is the creature called crafty? Why is the snake craftier than the other animals? Ultimately the story is all about who rules, but we need to deal with some of these issues so we can get to the main point.

A common response is to say, Continue reading “Who’s in charge now? (Genesis 3:1-14)”