I’ve heard a lot of people say that Christians condemn others who don’t share their Biblical morals. When issues such as same-sex marriage are debated, a common accusation from homosexuals is that Christians condemn them. This charge has been leveled at us so often and for so long that many Christians opt to dance around Biblical doctrines, rather than actually give voice to them in public forums. Is it a fair or accurate statement to say that Biblical Christians condemn those who characteristically practice sin?
The essence of Christianity is the message of the Gospel, a word that simply means “good news”. This message was called good news by the angel who announced the birth of Christ (Luke 2:10). Announcing the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies concerning the coming of the Jewish Messiah, the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” meaning this good news was for everyone, not just the Jews.
But the Jews best understood what this good news meant, because the Hebrew Bible had preserved for them the teachings that our sinfulness separates us from God, making us subject to his judgement, and that without atonement for sin we already stand condemned. For over a thousand years the Jews had tried and failed to live according to God’s commandments. As a people, they had learned the hard way that without God’s supernatural intervention, it is impossible to be saved from the consequences of sin. That is why the angel called the Messiah a “Savior”, because he came to save his people. The name “Jesus” literally means salvation, and that is why Christians say they are “saved”.
Christians are saved from the consequences of sin as a result of “receiving” Christ and his sacrifice (“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” — John 1:12). This is not the result of anything we do. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy,” (Titus 3:5); “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8).
What makes this good news is that we were already condemned and dead in our sins, but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ atoned for those sins, paid the price for those sins and redeemed us from the dead, into eternal life in the presence of the Almighty. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8).
This is all to say that the message of salvation in Christ is good news for everyone. So where does the idea of condemnation enter into the picture? Mark 16:16 says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” A backlash is often heard that goes something like this: “You Christians claim to believe in a loving God and yet you condemn those who disagree with you. You aren’t loving. You are hateful, bigoted and condemning.”
This backlash comes from the basic misconception that is best compared to, “Love me, love my dog”. An onus is being placed on Christians, not unlike being expected to love a bad dog simply because it is owned by someone you love. Homosexuals expect Christians to accept their homosexual behavior, despite the fact that the Bible calls it sin. The expectation being placed on Christians is that if we claim to love homosexuals, we should accept, tolerate, or at least not “judge” their behavior. If we really love them, then it is expected we should stay silent about how they live.
We are told by an increasingly secular society that making absolute moral distinctions based on a Biblical world view is ignorant, narrow-minded and unacceptable, that truth and morality are not absolute or exclusive, but relative and inclusive. This point of view rejects the fact that God himself has drawn a line of demarcation, separating that which is righteous, moral and holy from that which is sinful, immoral and unholy. So, when Christians speak out against homosexuality, those standing on the other side of the line only hear condemnation. “Thus saith the LORD” is taken as code meaning, “I have the right to force my beliefs on you”.
Those who approach reality from a secular world view reject the notion that God exists. And those who are merely influenced by secular world views reject the authority of any God and reject the Bible as an authoritative source for determining society’s moral standards. Nevertheless, the Christian faith stands outside the world of secular values and is not subject to secular world view standards. Our faith is subject only to Biblical world view standards. We cannot try to be “tolerant” by jettisoning our Biblical world view. Our words and our actions must be consistent with what the Bible says, not what the world says.
God has drawn a line between light and darkness, life and death. On one side stands truth and forgiveness. On the other, lies and condemnation. Condemnation doesn’t come from the gospel. It comes from believing lies. And perhaps the biggest lie is that sin isn’t really sin at all. It’ like the lie the serpent whispered in Eve’s ear in Genesis 3:1, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” meaning, did God actually say that is a sin?
Right now there are people thinking that the serpent didn’t lie, he only asked a question. But his question was not designed to elicit an answer, rather to sow doubt and disbelief in Eve’s mind. Of course God said that. The serpent was well aware of that. But he knew how to weaken Eve, so that she would fall into temptation and sin. Today, anti-Biblical apologists are equally sly. They “ask,” “Does the Bible really say that?”, playing on the weaknesses of the uninformed.
To me, the absolute separation of moral from immoral is best pictured as the difference between light and darkness. Here, there are no shades of grey. Even the light of a single candle dispels the darkness. John 1:5 puts it this way, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Equally opposite in polarity are the consequences of morality vs immorality. Light leads to life; darkness leads to death. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And Jesus is willing to forgive all who turn back from darkness to follow him, as Ephesians 5:8 points out, “…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
Just as there is an absolute separation between light and darkness, so also there is an absolute separation of God’s judgement for those who walk in the light from those who walk in darkness. “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:32-33; 42; 46). There is no third option, no situational relativity. It’s either life or death.
Biblical morality looks to no less than the authority of the Creator of the universe. It is not based on popular thought or democratic deliberation. It is based on obedience to God’s standards. Thus Christians and the Bible, following God’s example, condemn sin, not people. Those who feel condemned are those who reject the absolute line between right and wrong, or the authority or existence of God who draws that line. And to those who are condemned, Jesus offers salvation. All they have to do is turn to him and forsake their former sins.
“And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge [NIV: condemn] him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.’” — John 12:44-50 (ESV)