Our culture no longer speaks the language of the Gospel. That’s obvious. Chief among these is our total disregard for sin. No longer even just a quaint idea, it is seen as actually pretty hurtful. It makes people feel bad about themselves and condemned. It actually turns people away from Church.
Thus, as the Church feels her numbers dwindle, more and more she is playing ball. We begin thinking that, “Hey, we don’t want to be haters, we want to help people come to know peace, love and compassion. We should really just focus our message on other things. We are losing our people because we do violence to their psyches with our talk of sin.”
We are flirting with becoming a vain Church. Do we really want to reach people with the Good News or do we just want to be liked? Do we really want people to pass from death to life in Jesus or do we want them to just be happy, comforted and still sitting in our pews? Do we really want the salvation of lost souls, or do we want to feel successful because people still respect us? Do we want to be fools for Christ, or do we want to fit in?
Some of those may be false dichotomies, but, either way, the rub seems to lie in this – there is no Good News, if there is not already Bad News. We basically can’t talk about love if we don’t talk about sin as well. What experience of love can we have outside of sin? Jesus didn’t come to say, “Hey guys, everyone is going to be okay. Just be nice and, remember, I’m here to be your consultant should you feel you need one.” Instead, He said,
But unless you all repent, you will likewise perish (Luke 13:3,5)
Now, we must speak this good word without condemnation and firmly in the Spirit, who is Love. If someone encounters his sin in despair, he is not encountering Jesus. The Spirit convicts us of our sin; He does not condemn us (Rom 8:1). For sure, we have to talk about sin correctly.
But, even if we present it perfectly, won’t our talk of sin still drive people away? Aren’t we making our task of evangelizing impossible by making people less and less willing to listen to anything we have to say?
Imagine the extreme. There may be a day when the Church can’t reach a single person. In fact, in the day of the Antichrist, Scripture tells us, basically no one will be against him. Everyone will love him and be totally bought in. The Church in those days, Scripture tells us (Pope Benny illustrated), will be a very small remnant. Despite all its best efforts to be heard and to deliver its message of love, it will not be ‘successful’; its words will not appear to accomplish their goal; it will bear very little fruit; no one will pay attention to it if they even know it exists. To talk of sin in those days will inspire absolute laughter and mockery, if not brutal anger.
Should we care? Does that mean we have to augment our language to not talk about sin? Do we go so far to ‘reach people’ that we are silent about Jesus’ view of the world, thinking that this mission of ‘reaching people’ is actually our mission in the first place?
We have to resist the temptation to vanity, the temptation to fit in. This is the hardest thing. There will always come a time when we have to be willing to jeopardize relationships we absolutely cherish to remain real, honest disciples of Jesus. Not cavalierly, not because we want to or because it makes us feel like a martyr, but because the King is the King and we love Him above all else. In a way, none of us has ‘arrived’ as a disciple until we are mocked, ridiculed and at least emotionally persecuted for being just that.
The passage of 2 Timothy 3:12 is a universal promise of persecution: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Therefore, if we are not being persecuted, we can deduce what logically follows from that fact. (Peter Kreeft)
If one fears men much he will never do anything great for God: all that one does for God arouses persecution. (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Brothers and sisters, do you feel the silent strangle at work in “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) around us?
It is political, diplomatic, trying to remain hidden and seductive, appealing to our desire to just get along, but, nonetheless it says, “Do not speak that Name! Do not speak His words!” It promises us good things while it wraps its fingers around our neck. It simultaneously seduces and threatens – it just wants us to shut up.
We all feel it. We all grow weary under its constant, tempting whisper that pleads for our silence, our complacency, our indifference. Do not give in! Do not be silent! Do not believe the Gospel is less, not more. Do not abandon one single letter of the words of Jesus. Do not doubt their power to save!
[Look to Jesus], who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
People need to hear the Good News and the Bad News. Love and sin. Remain faithful to the end in witnessing (in love and truth) to both, regardless of how ‘successful’ we seem to be.