The man walking through my front door was squat and sturdy. We had just moved to town and he was delivering some new furniture. Determined to start a spiritual conversation, I had asked a question which I no longer remember. What I do recall is the gist of his answer.
“The way I figure it,” he said, “I’m trying to do good things. I don’t think it matters what church a person might go to or if they go to church. I think what matters is if people are doing good.”
His words could not have more accurately summed up a commonly shared wisdom. Yet from what we read in God’s word, God would not call this wisdom.
As God looks at our good neighbors and those golden-hearted people who would give you the shirt off their backs, he also sees the guilt staining their lives, which they have acquired. Despite all of their good intentions and loving actions today, yesterday has forever barred any hope of heavenly bliss tomorrow.
Justice demands a guilty verdict. Being incorruptible, God can not violate his nature by acquitting the guilty. Sin demands they suffer the condemnation of death. Being incorruptible, God’s wrath must be poured out against all sin — against all of us, even the proverbially wonderful person whom we’ve seen act in sacrificially loving ways but whose life has become stained with sin.
Quite literally, people find themselves at enmity with the Creator of the universe. There can be no doubt about how this would end.
Fortunately, history bears out that God’s nature also includes love, explaining why some two millenia ago, in a Roman province under a man name Pontius Pilate, Jesus died the death of a criminal. Through the blood of his death upon that cross, God had acted to provide a detergent more powerful than the vilest sinful action ever conceived by a human being.
In view of the injustice and evil we know about, what transpired on an ancient Roman cross challenges our comprehension. But the good news is it did happen. Because of Jesus’ death, righteousness could demand love toward humanity instead of wrath.
Peace with God broke forth, a peaceful relationship God had made possible. God had provided what humanity had been powerless to achieve — the forging of a relationship between God and humans and the ability to sustain it.
With our society drifting further away from its Christian moorings, the need to communicate the good news of Christ’s death only becomes more urgent and greater. People really do not know or understand.
How will a furniture deliverer ever come to understand the truth about spiritual life? Who will tell him?
We have peace with God only through Christ.