NO, THE MESSAGE OF JESUS WAS NOT ALL ABOUT LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE
“Christ preached a message of love and acceptance!”. How many times have we heard that one? How many times have Christians been told that when they stand with the Bible on hot topic cultural issues or when they unequivocally proclaim Christ as the only route to salvation? But methinks these people have not taken the time to read the words of Christ.
First of all, a half-truth is more dangerous than a lie. Satan told half-truths to Eve in the garden when he said she would be like god if she ate of the fruit. Even so, the most effective lies usually have some truth sprinkled on them. Did Christ preach love? Of course He did! The Man modelled love to perfection, so much so that He died to save His very enemies and with His dying breath prayed for His tormentors.
Did Christ preach acceptance? Well, this is a more sneaky and loaded question. What do we mean by “acceptance” really? If by this we mean, “come to God as you are, with all your baggage and issues and sins”, then my answer to that question is a resounding yes. Jesus says,
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37)
But if by acceptance, we mean Jesus endorsing the lifestyle and beliefs of everyone who came to Him, then I have a number of bones to pick. This is, for the most part, what people mean by Jesus’ message being love and acceptance. Jesus is an LGBT ally who whole-heartedly supports their choices, Jesus is “love” so He is in favour of all kinds of love. These are positions that cannot be supported from even the most spurious readings of the Bible.
For one, the very first words of Jesus’ public message are recorded by Matthew thus,
“From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
Mark, the first gospel to be written, records the same scenario thus,
“…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Christ’s message is that His listeners “Repent”! The word there in the Greek literally means “a change of mind”. Why would the first public message of Jesus state that a change is needed if He was affirming and accepting of “everyone’s journey in life”?
How serious was Jesus about repentance?
“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?
I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1–5)
Jesus made it crystal clear to His listeners that they would perish unless they repented. This is how essential repentance was to His message. It was out of love He made this known to sinners.
Jesus in describing His mission says,
“…For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13)
The purpose of Jesus’ mingling with and “friendship” with sinners was to call them to repentance, not to affirm them, give them two enthusiastic thumbs-ups and make them feel better about their sinful choices. He was calling them to repentance so that they did not perish. This is the love He had towards them. He cared enough to divert them from the path they were headed and bring them into His sheepfold through the message of the gospel, which is what He was preaching (Mark 1:15), not a message of love and acceptance.
We see this in action with Zacchaeus who repented and restituted by restoring all the items he had duped people off of four-fold. Zacchaeus also called him “Lord” after that encounter (Luke 19:8). So Jesus’ impromptu rendezvous with Him was not to affirm him in his thieving, avaricious ways but rather to provoke a change of heart in him.
We also see this in Peter, who in his first meeting with Jesus, commented,
“…Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Luke 5:8)
After some time with Jesus, the same Peter subsequently writes in his epistle,
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” (1 Peter 4:1–3)
This same Peter went from being sinful to unapologetically preaching righteousness. Such is the power of the gospel message which Christ preached.
How many of the “Christ was all love and acceptance” people have any intention of changing their ways in response to Christ’s love for and acceptance of them? It appears what they really want is to continue in their ways without any fear of repercussion, judgment or accountability to Christ, but as Peter says,
“They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1Peter 4:5)
Further, Christ spoke about one thing the “love and acceptance” gang would never dare to mention…HELL!
“ If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than having two hands and be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched — where
‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into into the fire that shall never be quenched — where
‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire — where
‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:43–48)
For context, Jesus was quoting the following passage from Isaiah,
“And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24)
Hell, repentance and judgment were every wit part of the gospel message of Jesus Christ, how come we never hear of these portions of Jesus’ teaching? Why do we strain the love out, isolate it and stretch it to grotesque proportions while pretending the other elements of His teaching do not exist?
How come we do not hear about humility from the “love and acceptance” mob?
Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector on humility was that the latter admitted he was sinful and in need of God’s mercy (Luke 19:9–14).
If we affirm and accept the sins of people, do we not rob them of the opportunity to recognise their true state before God, humble themselves and realise their need for His mercy? Is affirming a person who literally stands in pride of his sin and rebellion against God not antithetical to the whole point of Christ’s message which is to “repent and believe the gospel?”, is this not priming them for the hell, which Christ in His love, died to save them from? Is this not sinning against Christ?
In conclusion, the message of Christ was not “love and acceptance”, it was “the gospel and repentance”. The gospel is the framework within which we, as Christians, love people. Our love for people cannot pervert or over-ride the message of the scripture hence Jesus prioritises our love for God over love for our neighbour in His estimation of the two greatest commandments. The best possible love Christians could have for unbelievers, as their neighbour, is to point them to the love of God in Christ and that love bids them repent and believe the gospel.