Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Sin and redemption

My wife and I just watched the Swedish movie, As it is in Heaven. I’ve long been much more interested in European movies (so-called “art” movies”) rather than the thousands of predictable movies reaching our shelves from Hollywood. (And just to prove that I’m not biassed against Hollywood, I can say that, with the exception of a handful of excellent movies made in South Africa, I consider those made in my own country as some of the worst movies ever made!) It’s rather that I’ve reached the point in my life where I really try and choose the movies I watch, reading reviews on movies (http://www.imdb.com is excellent for this purpose) and then making a choice on what I want to see and what not.
In any case: This afternoon we watched As it is in Heaven. It’s great! If you haven’t seen it yet, try and get a copy somewhere. It’s fairly long and it has subscripts (the dialogue being in Swedish) but anyone interested in something more than the normal action movies, should be touched by this movie.
In one scene in the movie, Inger, the pastor’s wife, makes the remark towards her husband, Stig: “I have thought. The church invented sin. Handing out guilt with one hand then offering redemption with the other. It’s all a lie, hot air, to suppress people, to gain power.” Stig responds in anger: “Silence! Ask for God’s forgiveness!” Inger then turns around and says: “God doesn’t forgive, don’t you get that? Because He’s never condemned.”
Of course what Inger says isn’t the truth. The church never invented sin. The church doesn’t need sin in order to offer redemption. God does condemn sin. But this isn’t the point. This is Inger’s perception of how the church reacts towards people in need of grace. And I think Inger’s accusation may be true. I have seen churches debating for hours on end whether something is sinful or not. Now, I’m not arguing that sin should be ignored. Far from it! But what I am arguing for is that the church becomes the instrument of God’s mercy and love in the world so that all people, who are all in need of God’s redemption, would be able to recognise God’s love by looking at the church, rather than fearing condemnation when they see the image of the church.
I have mentioned it before that, when I arrived in Swaziland, the church had a number of sins which they regarded as very, very bad sins – things such as smoking, using alcohol, women using makeup, women wearing trousers and a number of other things. Surprisingly, pregnancy out of wedlock were not included in the list of sins! But this, in my mind, is the typical mistake made by the church – that certain issues are emphasised while others are ignored and that people’s spiritual lives are then evaluated according to this.
The truth is that we are all in need of redemption. We are all in need of God’s mercy. Sin – not just a number of individual things which we do wrong, but rather sin as the total onslaught against God – is a reality from which we need to be saved. This is what Jesus had come to do for us. And this is the message that we need to proclaim in the world.
Constantly working with people infected with HIV and knowing that by far the majority of them became infected because of immorality (sin!) have forced me to look at these people with other eyes. We had the choice to proclaim a message of condemnation upon all those infected with HIV and AIDS. But that would have made little if any difference. Or we could have done what we chose to do, to become instruments in the hands of God to proclaim His love and grace to these people. I’m not saying that all of these people are going to be saved. But I do believe that more will accept God’s grace after seeing it demonstrated in a practical way by the church, than would accept it after hearing a message of condemnation.
We don’t need to hand out guilt in order to offer redemption. We need to hand out love in order for people to accept redemption.


Monday, December 17, 2007 - Posted by | Church, Grace, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Meetings, Mission, Swaziland, Theology


  1. Certainly it is His lovingkindess that brings us to repentance, no?

    Excellent post. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Comment by Maya | Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | Reply

  2. If I remember well, it was Philip Yancey in his What’s so amazing about grace, that said that we can hardly overemphasise God’s grace. We tend to speak (or preach) about God’s grace and then end with “but…” at which time we once again refer to man’s obligation to live correctly in order to be saved. Someone like Paul was so overwhelmed by God’s grace (lovingkindness) that his life changed completely. And this indeed brought him to repentance.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | Reply

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