Without fail, when our family opens up The Action Bible (or any book, for that matter) one question will be asked. Every time. Multiple times.
“Which one is the bad guy?”
And each time, without fail, we explain that things aren’t so black and white. That some of these bad guys will become good guys, and some of these good guys were once bad guys, and ultimately, every guy in here is a bad guy in one way or another, except Jesus. This has gotten us thinking about how we categorize bad guys and how that translates to our apologetic interactions.
So who are the bad guys?
I have little doubt that most of us answered that question fairly automatically, probably in spite of ourselves. Was your first thought homosexuals? Adulterers? Pesky old earth creationists? No, I believe this is a trick question. The answer should sound something like “Who isn’t?!”
Sin is sin, but our sin nature inclines us to cherry pick which sins are *really* bad and which are *basically* harmless. We ignore the plank and focus on the speck(Matthew 7:3), fixate on sins that we have deemed especially bad, and sweep other sins under a rug of “well, I’m basically good, aren’t I?” When we do this, not only do we act in a manner contrary to scripture, we also hinder our witness to others.
Doesn’t the Bible tell us that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” (James 2:10–11)? Have we forgotten that ALL “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)? It is probably the case that most of us have head knowledge that these things are true, but often, in practice, our heart forgets.
So why is this important to apologetics?
I am reminded of the parable that Jesus shared with “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else”:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:9-13)
The first man should make us cringe as we reflect on our own lack of humility. And what does Jesus say of the second man? “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
So Now What?
If we are to engage our culture and those in need of the love of Jesus well, we need to approach them with the knowledge that we are all equally broken, equally sinful, and equally in need of Jesus’s grace. That knowledge, if believed, will translate to a humble, empathetic approach. Otherwise, don’t we sound like tax collectors to the people we are trying to reach? If we act as if our sin is lesser than the sin of the people we are talking to, we have lost sight of the fact that all sin is rebellion to God, no matter the kind, and all sin is deserving of eternal punishment.
By all means, speak with confidence against the championing of or minimizing of sins, but remember that we are all broken, and there is no sin that Christ has not died for. Didn’t God demonstrate “His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)?
So, from one bad guy to another, with these things in mind, let us move forward in humility and love, gently removing impediments for those who might believe, putting aside human anger that doesn’t result in righteousness, and leading by example for children who are learning how to be empathetic and sympathetic toward others.
By the way, have you picked up your copy of ‘Possums and the Empty Tomb? This is a great way to talk about the resurrection with your children!