How would you describe the acts of cruelty and depravity that occur day in and day out in our world?
Recently, hackers found their way into the Ashley Madison database, exposing millions of individuals who had signed up for the opportunity to have affairs on their spouses. That a website of this design even exists is astonishing enough, but the vast number of users is even more disheartening. Earlier last week, a man filled with hatred shot two reporters during a live TV interview. He filmed the premeditated murders with his smart phone and uploaded the killings onto social media. The latest undercover video of Planned Parenthood’s illegal activities revealed that they are in the practice of selling fully intact fetuses…or babies, if you will, and some of these helpless ones are even born alive at times. Every day, unbeknownst to us, refugees are fleeing their homes in desperate attempts to escape the horrific terrors of ISIS, Al-Shabaab, and other terrorist networks across the globe.
Those are just some of the recent major headlines we come across; what about the normal, everyday atrocities and sins that occur around us, or even because of us?
What about the abuse and neglect of children, the mass pornography and sexual addictions within our society, or the continuous assault on the value of the core family? What about the tremendous debt that holds many of us captive, the love of money that drives our passions, or the reign of technology that continues to pull us away from real interaction with those in our lives?
It seems we have made a mess of things.
Maybe it's because of my geographical location, but I have noticed a very popular trend to describe Jesus as “sweet.” There are countless songs on Christian radio where He is described as our "friend," that dependable buddy who is always there with a smile and an accepting hug. He is often championed as our greatest cheerleader, the one who wants us to seize the day and conquer all of our fears. He is gentle, meek, and mild. He is, as they say, our "sweet Jesus," and don't those pictures just perfectly capture His personality? You know, those pictures. They are a dime a dozen, but the basics are usually there: a soft, tender Jesus with long, blonde hair and blue eyes, sitting quietly in a meadow with children on His lap, or standing on a hillside while people calmly listen. Or maybe it is an up close encounter with Jesus looking sadly at the one who paints His portrait, blood dripping down His gentle face, a crown of thorns piercing the skin beneath His blonde or light-brown hair.
And I wonder…how is this nice and gentle Jesus relevant to the harsh realities of our world today?
Every day, we come into contact with people who have bought into the "tolerance" lie of our culture. Maybe you have also bought into this lie. It says that tolerance is loving and intolerance is hateful; in other words, to believe someone's behavior, choices, or lifestyle to be wrong is to be judgmental and coldhearted. We are all expected to tip-toe around as if we are walking on egg shells, afraid we might say something that would offend another person. I am not even referring to those true offenses like calling someone fat or ugly, offenses that come from hatefulness, disrespect, or a lack of tact. I am referring to offenses that are derived from simply holding differing convictions from another person. Instead, we are pressured to accept the cultural lie that sounds so very nice and loving, which says, "I don't think it really matters what you believe as long as your heart is good."
After all, the logic goes, we serve a nice and loving Jesus, right? So we should also be nice and loving and non-offensive?
The only problem is this: Jesus wasn't a non-offensive, "politically correct" leader who lacked any real party line on the major issues of His (and our) day. Jesus isn't this "sweet Jesus" that is precious like a baby or helpless like a forlorn lover who powerlessly waits in rejection while we make up our minds on whether or not He will be our first love. Nope, He is much more than that.
You see, He is Jesus, the Warrior King.
Just to recap, when Jesus Christ lived as flesh on this earth, He continuously offended the religious leaders of His day because He neither tolerated nor praised their false religion (ie Matt. 23). He made it very clear that His Way is divisive, even turning father against son and brother against sister (Matt.10:34-39). He drove out the wicked with a whip when they abused the Holy Temple of God (John 2:13-17). He rebuked those who polished their outer lives but neglected their inner character (Luke 11:37-41). He was offensive, bold, and unbending when it came to the Truth. He was "the Man," a Warrior King, and He came on a mission to redeem those who were at that time enemies of the cross (that's all of us). He came to do battle, and battle is just what He did.
Was Jesus also loving, kind, and gentle to those who earnestly sought Him? Yes. Was He the Great Shepherd to those of His flock, even as He is our Shepherd today? Absolutely. Did He show astounding grace and mercy to those most depraved of His society? Indeed, He did. Does He redeem and forgive us from our sins who call upon Him and follow Him with genuine repentance and commitment? No doubt!
But let us not ever forget the power and the majesty and the ferocity of our King. Let us not ever reduce Him to this menial god who wants to offer some sort of self-help program of love and forgiveness to those who are tirelessly shackled to their sins in this life but also in love with their sins nonetheless. We have gone the wrong way when we chant with the world, "God loves us all!" and only call for everyone to just pray a prayer so they can go to Heaven, while lacking any real element of godly repentance and life change as a result. That's not why Jesus came. He is not Jesus, the rejected lover.
He is Jesus, the Warrior King.
He calls for those who would allow redemption to radically change them as they follow Him. He calls for us to die to self that we may have life in Him, to pick up our crosses of suffering so that we might fellowship with Him, even in His death but also in His resurrection. He doesn't want part of our affections - He wants all of them. He does not want us to just go to church and be nice people. He wants to totally rearrange every passion and whim of our hearts so they are aligned to Him. He is Jesus, the Warrior King, and He is raising up His army. We, His genuine followers, are His army.
Should this really make any difference in the way we live and interact with those around us? Is Jesus relevant to our world beyond some kind of cathartic, psychological release from guilt and shame? Without a doubt, yes!
We must always remember that those we interact with everyday who do not follow Jesus are currently enemies of the cross. They are at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7). As much as we'd like to pretend to the contrary, they do not automatically benefit from the forgiveness and love of Jesus, because they do not know Him. In battle, you are either on one side or the other, and this is the case for every person in this world as the greatest battle of all rages over the souls of mankind (ie Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43). We are all either for Jesus or against Him. If this knowledge does not ignite a fiery passion in all of us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who do not follow Him, then we must seriously consider which side we are on. The reality is that every person must either choose Jesus or reject Him. We cannot make that decision for others, but our duty as His soldiers is to live the Gospel and tell the Gospel to everyone He brings to our paths. We do this through the power of His love and grace, but we do not bend on the truths of His Gospel, even as offensive as they may be. His Gospel does not change with the fickleness of whatever is politically correct or socially accepted.
We must also remember the Majestic Power of our God! There are times of intimacy in which we call on Him as our Father, as the One who relentlessly loves and forgives us. There are times when we allow our hearts to rejoice in the glory of knowing Jesus intimately as our Savior and Shepherd. But we must also practice the discipline of worshipping Jesus as King, the Warrior King. He is the One we serve and lift up on high. We are not His equals, for He is God!
Lastly, we must take courage in the knowledge that our Savior, Jesus Christ, continues to work, even today, even in the midst of the most atrocious and unimaginable human acts. He works even in the midst of our own sinful ways. As we join Him in the war against Satan, we are not powerless, even when it seems that evil continues to prevail. We serve Jesus, the Warrior King, and He will never cease to defend the orphan, the widow, the poor, the rejected. He will stand for Truth, and we must join Him in that stand. We do not offend others because we are brash, insensitive, or unloving. But we stand by the Gospel, and the offensiveness of the Gospel will naturally make us enemies to those who are against the cross of Christ. Jesus already warned us of this reality (John 16).
Jesus is relevant to our world not just because of His loving sacrifice on the cross that brings freedom from sin, but because the cross points to the reality that He lives. He came to reveal Himself as the Way that should be followed because He is greater than sin and death, and through His perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection, He proved that His claims were true. His mission did not end at the cross, for He did not come to forgive us and leave us with warm feelings of happiness. He came to redeem us, to reclaim us, and to make us His followers.
As I think about all the horrors genuine Christians face throughout the world, there is an image of Jesus described in Revelation that bolsters my strength as His follower, whatever may come:
"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." Revelation 19:11-16, emphasis mine
He is Jesus, the Warrior King, and may He say one day to each of us that we were His faithful soldiers in this great war. Today, let us all remember Jesus, the Warrior King, and let us genuinely follow Him!