"We believe people are basically good."
This is the first value of the eBay community. Having recently made our first acquisition on eBay it was interesting to come across this. The whole process was quite tricky for Em, she knows what's wrong with the above statement and found it very difficult to assume we weren't being conned or ripped off.
Because essentially the eBay community principle number 1 is false. It's just not true. People are not basically good. And yet from many Christian meetings its the impression you could easily get. We talk about people needing to know God's love and comfort. The gospel begins to sound like some kind of cotton wool that we can wrap around the poor innocent people of the world. That would be a very popular message. Very Politically Correct, very unobtrusive.
The response to the Tsunami has largely been twofold. On the one hand many have testified to their new respect for the planet and its power, becoming worshippers of creation. And the second we've seen the quite right generosity of the rest of the world to help. Except its been largely self-congratulatory, how good we are to be helping... though we remain so much richer than most of the world, easily overlooking the on going death toll of poverty and disease....
From a Christian perspective the root seems to be the assumption that the Christian gospel can be expressed as "God is love", and thus we are lovable creatures. I'm not doubting the phrase - it is even a direct quote from the Bible. But is this really what it implies?
The thing is, that in 1 John 4v15 - where we learn that "God is love". We also find that "This is love..." in 1 John 4v10.
"this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
That is to say, This is love, that God should have poured out his wrath on sinful people like us, but he sent his Son to bear that judgement in our place. God is love. The base assumption of Biblical love is that all humanity is sinful, opposed to God. Insolent creatures who reject their creator. God shows us love through the death of his Son, by whom we can be spared judgement and brought into eternal pleasure in the presence of God. His love is salvific. And that is a very good thing, not something to be obscured - even if the world finds the plain truth offensive.
The implications of this then would seem to be that we do want the world to know the love of God, but that this is going to be more than a cuddle and a blanket. (More than, not necessarily less than). To know God's love is going to mean knowing that we are sinners deserving judgement. To know that God is love is going to mean repentance.
A few faithful preachers reminded the world after the Tsunami and 9/11 and at other times that what the world needs most to do is to repent. It's the last thing the world wants to be told, and the first thing it needs. This is our greatest need - to repent and find forgiveness through the death of Christ.
And this is true for Christians as much as non-Christians. One of the things I love at our church is that I know that every week I will be called back to my loving God in repentance. It was the cornerstone of Jesus message. And as I battle on in the war between sin and the Holy Spirit I fail and need to repent - to come again and recieve grace at the Cross. There is no where else to go. There is no where else I'd want to go.