Written by Jon Herring- Pastor of Grace Church Leatherhead
In recent weeks we have seen a culture of pulling down statues of people who have done, said or believed evil things. And it’s easy to look on and shake our heads self-righteously as the sins of these people’s past are uncovered.
But it has led me to thinking- what if there were a statue of me (unlikely as that is!), and one day every bad thing I had ever said, done or even thought was exposed. It doesn’t make for comfortable thinking!
There is a culture at the moment that seeks to uncover and expose people in order- if they don’t pass the test- to tear them down. The media intently scrolls through noteable people’s social media history and anything they’ve ever been recorded to have said, done or produced. And anything that isn’t deemed fitting with the current cultural climate’s standards of ‘righteousness’ means you are cast off, cancelled, thrown in to a pit of fire!
It is comparable to a strictly religious law that if you don’t adhere to then you are judged. And there’s no room for debate or nuance on these, it seems.
J.K Rowling is the latest victim. She has been ousted from the popular good will for expressing her opinion on the gender debate. Despite the nuanced and sensitive way in which she sought to express her point of view, she has been publicly condemned by almost every member of the former Harry Potter cast, removed as patron from various charities, unnamed as the head of school houses, and more. She has been judged unworthy of her former position of honour and roasted on the fire of public contempt.
But who is the judge? Because I hope they are squeaky clean. I hope that they don’t have any past sins. They would surely need to be perfect in all their past thoughts and actions to be able to make a judgement.
And what if the cultural tide turns and society decides that the current standards of ‘righteousness’ are actually wrong?
What if it decides that the pornography industry is indeed contributing to and supporting human trafficking and the abuse of women. What if anyone who has ever consented to or engaged with that industry is suddenly ousted. Then there are going to be a whole lot of men and women who are going to stand trial! Many of whom might be the ones currently doing the judging.
What if… in a hundred years time we decide that abortion is in actual fact murder. There would again be a whole lot of people who might have to stand trial!
What if the standards changed, and we were all examined with the kind of unyielding scrutiny that is being applied to the likes of J.K Rowling, and every selfish action, every spiteful word, every inconsistency and hypocrisy and act of love left undone was brought in to the open.
Well thank goodness there isn’t a statue of me…
What hope is there for any of us in a culture where you are judged without grace or compassion? Where perfection is the bar for acceptance.
Because surely then we are all doomed. No-one should have a statue.
Well actually, the bible tells us that there is some truth in that!
People are right to be angry at injustice. People are right to be upset by sin and evils of the past and present.
Because it is right that evil should be judged.
And only a perfect being could possibly judge us.
Jesus said, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
He is speaking to a bunch of self righteous religious people who are about to stone a prostitute for her sexual sin.
But as he says this, they are somewhat convicted. They realise that if that is the bench mark for judgement- if you need to be perfect to judge- then they have fallen far short!
But… there is one who is perfect, one who can judge. God himself. He is perfect. And he will. The Bible tells us that there will come a day when the perfect Son of God will judge this world and all evil will be dealt with. Every sinner cast out.
But the wonderful news is that he chose to come ahead of that day so that he could take that coming judgment for every sinner on himself! When Jesus, the Son of God came the first time, just over 2000 years ago, he came not to judge, but to die in every sinner’s place for every sinner’s sin.
He led the perfect life, completely without sin. He never did anything wrong. His is the only statue that could not be pulled down for past sins.
And Jesus dealt with the punishment that we can all see that our sin and evil acts deserve by dying on the cross. Death is the punishment for sin, And he took it.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not die but have eternal life.”– Jesus, John 3:16
And then he rose from the dead to show that he had defeated sin and evil. And that we can be redeemed from our evil ways and can live a life like his if we follow and trust in him.
This astonishingly gracious act of God changes everything! It means that rather than being vilified, all of our past evils can be forgiven by Him, the only perfect one, when we come to Jesus.
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”– Jesus, Luke 5:32
And it means that whatever our past failures, we can live with the hope that when he comes again, rather than casting us out, he will welcome every repentant sinner in to his eternal heavenly kingdom, where there will be no evil and no sin and no shame.
There won’t be any statues there. But there will be Jesus himself. Seated upon his throne. And we will worship him in the perfect confidence that he is the one who truly deserves all praise and honour, forevermore.
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.Revelation 7:15-17
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”