Is condemnation in Christianity a you problem? While out walking this afternoon, there were two people across the street from me that were so loud you couldn’t help but hear them. Given COVID concerns right now, I’m glad they were on the other side of the street! Anyway, the relevant line in their conversation was, “If you want to condemn half the population of the world, that’s a you problem.” Apparently, the speaker wasn’t Christian and the other was, unless they were just disagreeing in preparation for a debate or something.
Christianity presents each of us with two options. Salvation. Or condemnation. So the conclusion seems to be, for this person, that condemnation in Christianity is our problem, as Christians. But is that true?
a You Problem?
Unfortunately, since the two people were going in the opposite direction, I didn’t get to hear the answer.
Is Condemnation in Christianity a You Problem?
However, depending on the relationship of the two people, how friendly or antagonistic the conversation was, Etc. – the answer could have been something like, “No, it’s a you problem”.
Before I explain that, let me show you just one excerpt from the Bible. We’ll see that the response is correct, if not necessarily appropriate in whatever the circumstances might have been, on a couple of levels. It’s a portion of a passage telling us about a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee. It includes John 3:16, which most people know about, even non-Christians. But it also contains a few very important verses after that one, which I think even a lot of Christians tend to forget about.
Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Look at verse 18, and what comes next to explain what Jesus just said.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Or Is Condemnation in Christianity a You Problem?
When the non-Christian says Christian condemnation is a problem with Christians, that’s not true. The problem is that someone, even a Christian, who takes issue with what Christianity says about condemnation should not be pointing to us, as Christians. We are not the source of condemnation. Christian condemnation is not something we made up.
Rather, Christian condemnation is part of the “rules” that God set up. Remember, He created everything, including us. Do He actually does get to set the rules.
So the problem is not “you” or me, as Christians.
The problem isn’t really with Christianity either.
Here’s an example, however trivial it may be. Let’s say you’re playing Monopoly. You don’t like the rules. Do you look at the player who owns Boardwalk and Park Place (or whatever the two best properties are in your country’s version of the game might be) with a Hotel on both of them, and blame them for the rules that allowed this to happen? Do you blame the other player for the rules that allowed you to go bankrupt when you landed on Boardwalk for the 5th straight time going around the board? Of course not. You knew the rules when started to play the game.
Now, let’s take this to actual life. As Christians, it’s our responsibility to try to ensure that everyone knows “the rules”. In this case, the Gospel, and all that goes with it. John 3:16 is one place to start. It’s even got the eternal life or eternal death comparison to the Boardwalk / Park place scenario from Monopoly.
To the extent we at least start the conversation on what Christianity is about, there is, as Paul wrote, no excuse.
Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Ro 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Ro 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Ro 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Ro 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
And so, when there’s a conversation about Christianity and condemnation, we obviously have two, or more, people who know about Christian condemnation. Therefore, they should also know that the non-Christian cannot reasonably point to the Christian and say to that Christian, “it’s a you problem”. It just isn’t.
Rather, the problem is with the person who tries to claim Christian condemnation is a problem of Christians, either individually or collectively.
The problem, if you want to call it that, is twofold. First, the person either doesn’t really understand Christian condemnation or, more likely, they just don’t like it.
Not liking it leads to the second problem and the ultimate source of Christian condemnation. The person saying, “It’s a you problem”, really needs to do two things. One – recognize it’s God that they’re not happy with. Two – look in the mirror and tell themselves they are the ones who made the choices, from John 3:16-21, that lead to themselves condemning themselves.
Conclusion – Is condemnation in Christianity a you problem?
As long as “you” is the person saying Christian condemnation it looking at themselves in the mirror – then yes, it is a you problem.
The big issue for us, as Christians, is to recognize something I mentioned earlier.
depending on the relationship of the two people, how friendly or antagonistic the conversation was, Etc. – the answer could have been something like, “No, it’s a you problem”
Depending on who we’re speaking with, the message is the same, but the words must be adapted. In other words, the message is always the Gospel, but just like Jesus did, our tone and choice of words depend on who we’re communicating with. For instance, Jesus had harsh words for the Jewish leaders who should have known better and were leading people astray. However, His approach to ordinary people was quite different.
This is important. I can’t help but feel that we, Christians, have a serious problem here. These days, there’s so much animosity, even hatred, feelings that anyone who disagrees is wrong and must be silenced and “fixed” by forcing them to comply. The thing is, Christians should not be like that. We’re called to be different. To be loving. Why? Because, if we remember, the people we’re so upset with are not our enemy. And if we don’t remember, here’s what Paul said about it.
Eph 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Eph 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Is condemnation in Christianity a you problem? Ultimately, it’s a problem for many people because our life is part of a battle between good and evil. Many people don’t understand this. I often find it fascinating that people love to play video games having to do with conquering evil, but don’t understand that our very lives are involved in a real-life ultimate war between good and evil. And how are we to fight evil? With love. And so, to the extent that we, as Christians, don’t understand and / or don’t live like Paul described, much of what Christianity teaches suffers from a you problem – and the you is us.
Again – why? Because non-Christians don’t understand this, don’t believe it, think they can avoid it, Etc. In that sense, condemnation in Christianity is a you problem, where you is them. However, that doesn’t make them our enemy. Our enemy is “the enemy”, Satan. And we need to act like it. Like we actually believe the line – hate the sin, love the sinner. Not like we hate both the sin and the sinner.