This article has been written, specifically, to address a most rare exception, a comment on a previous article that’s been Pending Approval for quite a while. The comment in question was made in response to an article entitled Lookin’ For Hate In All The Wrong Places. It said,
“remember… there is a brand new covenant, which basicly breaks down morality to: ‘he who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to HIM it is sin.’ are you foolishly going to argue that homosexuals in their heart of hearts feel that theyre sinning? if so, youre very disillusioned. and thus, by the very biblical passage ive quoted… they arent sinning in being homosexual.”
ADDING TO THE DISCUSSION
Before going on, let me tell you a little bit about my approach with comments submitted on Here I Raise My Ebenezer and why this particular comment has been Pending Approval up to now. Like most bloggers, I welcome having readers comment on the articles I post. In addition to liking that it adds to the blog’s visibility on the Internet, I like that it adds to the discussion. I think that’s especially true with comments that express opposing views to mine. Regardless of its agreement or disagreement with my views, when a comment is submitted, it almost always gets published right away. That even applies to comments based on a premise taken out of context or ones that are meant to attack the messenger (me) and not the message, etc. In those cases, I can post my response, adding even further to the discussion. As a result of the approach I’ve taken with comments submitted to Here I Raise My Ebenezer, just since I launched this site last August, 205 comments have been published.
THE RAREST OF EXCEPTIONS
You’ll note my saying above, “when a comment is submitted, it almost always gets published right away”. Comments that don’t get published are a rare exception. Of course, the blogging platform I use for Here I Raise My Ebenezer (WordPress), is set up to filter spam. Otherwise, after a person has their first comment go though a Pending Approval process, any comment they submit is immediately published on the site. The rare exceptions, that don’t make it through the Pending Approval process, are ones that are obviously aimed at being offensive without contributing to the discussion or the person submitting the comment means to use the availability of commenting on my site as a platform for a totally unrelated topic that interests them, etc.
With all this understood, I’ll get back to addressing this most rare exception, the comment that, up to now, has been Pending Approval. It’s one of those fairly common sort of comments that are based on a premise taken out of context. However, this particular misunderstanding is one that seems to be increasing in popularity so I didn’t want to publish the comment until I could address it more thoroughly than can typically be done with a direct reply. So, I’m doing that here with this article.
My initial reaction was that, even if this Scripture wasn’t being taken out of context (and it is), it’s absurd to draw the conclusion from it that was being presented by the person submitting the comment. By that logic, you would also have to conclude that Charles Manson’s murders weren’t sins, if in his heart of hearts he didn’t know he was sinning. You’d, also, have to come to the same conclusion about John Dillinger’s bank robberies and Bernie Madoff’s lies. Absurd as this conclusion is, though, I have no way of knowing what was in the heart of the person submitting the comment when they presented this conclusion. Perhaps they took this Scripture out of context knowingly, just to support their agenda. However, as I said earlier, I’ve chosen to address it as a misunderstanding because it’s a misunderstanding that seems to be increasing in popularity. To that end, let me begin by addressing context.
The Scripture referenced here is James 4:17,
“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
The Book of James was written by the half-brother of Jesus. It’s believed to be one of the oldest books of the New Testament, probably written around A.D. 45. At the time, James had become the leader of the church in Jerusalem. The book was addressed to Jewish Christians, to provide practical advice on how to live the Christian life. That is the context for this verse of Scripture, not to redefine what sin is and what sin is not.
THE GOOD NEWS
In addition to being taken out of context, the Scripture referenced by the person submitting the comment is inappropriately linked to “a brand new covenant”. The New Covenant is the Gospel – i.e. the Good News. That cannot be summed up in a single verse. However, the following summary, from an article entitled Gospel Definitions : Trevin Wax provides one of the best and most succinct definitions I’ve found:
“In the beginning, the all-powerful, personal God created the universe. This God created human beings in His image to live joyfully in His presence, in humble submission to His gracious authority. But all of us have rebelled against God and, in consequence, must suffer the punishment of our rebellion: physical death and the wrath of God.
Thankfully, God initiated a rescue plan, which began with His choosing the nation of Israel to display His glory in a fallen world. The Bible describes how God acted mightily on Israel’s behalf, rescuing His people from slavery and then giving them His holy law. But God’s people – like all of us – failed to rightly reflect the glory of God.
Then, in the fullness of time, in the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself came to renew the world and restore His people. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law given to Israel. Though innocent, He suffered the consequences of human rebellion by His death on a cross. But three days later, God raised Him from the dead.
Now the church of Jesus Christ has been commissioned by God to take the news of Christ’s work to the world. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the church calls all people everywhere to repent of sin and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. Repentance and faith restores our relationship with God and results in a life of ongoing transformation.
The Bible promises that Jesus Christ will return to this earth as the conquering King. Only those who live in repentant faith in Christ will escape God’s judgment and live joyfully in God’s presence for all eternity. God’s message is the same to all of us: repent and believe, before it is too late. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.”
IGNORANCE OF THE LAW OR JUST IGNORING THE LAW?
A perfect example of New Covenant morality is recorded in John 8 with the well-known account of a woman who had been caught in adultery being brought to Jesus to see if He would say that she should be stoned, according to the law of Moses. Most famously, Jesus responded by saying,
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
That led to the woman’s accusers all leaving. The story then concluded with this dialog between Jesus and the woman:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
In addition to being a perfect example of New Covenant morality, it also provides the perfect counterpoint to the conclusion drawn by the person who submitted the comment I’m addressing here. Jesus didn’t send the woman off saying, “There, there. It’s OK to go back to what you were doing because in your heart of hearts you may not have known the right thing to do.” What He did do was this: Although both Jesus and the woman knew that she was deserving of condemnation according to the law, instead of justice, He showed her mercy and as He sent her off, He told her to repent of her sin, that she might receive grace. …
That is The New Covenant, The Gospel, The Good News!