Over the last couple years, Jillian and I have made time for our kids on Friday nights with a movie night. One of the most recent movie nights we chose the movie “The bridge to Terabithia“. I had seen this movie several years ago and we’ve read the book as well. But when you’re seeing it with your children again, you see it with different eyes. The book and the movie tells a story about a friendship and relationship between a new girl, Leslie, at school and an outcast boy, Jesse. Throughout the course of the story, they become really good friends. At one point in the story the young girl asked to go to church with a family of her new friend.
Leslie’s experience from the church experience was jubilant and excited she was so excited about hearing the gospel of Jesus. But in the same moment the Jesse’s sister tells Leslie that if she didn’t believe a certain way that she would be “Damned to Hell“. But the Leslie how couldn’t believe a loving God be could be so condemning. !!!Warning spoiler alert!!!!!As the story progress. The girl has an accidental death not long after her visit to church. And the boy is heartbroken and questions will she go to heaven or hell since she didn’t have a relationship with Jesus.
This revelation was a hard revelation to see with the kids in this movie. The kids asked how did the child die? They asked what was going to happen to her? And I had to reassure them that she was going to be OK. They have a solid foundation in Christ and we have had several times that someone in our lives have died and transitioned to the eternal life.
This week’s reading in Acts 15 and 16 highlights some very critical perspectives that we have in the church. This interaction in the first chapter brings Paul and Peter together.
Acts15:1-2;7-11 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
This interaction shows how some mentalities or perspectives are about condemnation or about punishment. But both of them Peter and Paul wants to show the compassion of Christ not condemnation of the spirit. In this particular situation we are shown compassion and love of Christ that we should share the gospel with everybody no matter what. There are no stipulations that we need to enforce in order to share the gospel of Christ. We don’t have to go to the old ways of connecting with God. We have a new mediator through Christ to intercede for us on our behalf. We don’t have to fear anymore about condemnation because when we accept Christ at any point in our journey on this earth: birth, life or death; Jesus will accept us without any stipulations. He loves us unconditionally.
In the second story we are also shown how Christ interceding for us does not promote condemnation. Christ longs for compassion a relationship with us.
Acts 16: 25-30 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[e] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
In the second chapter we are presented with Lydia and the officer in the jail. Christ could have allowed Paul to escape with the guard killing himself. But Christ gave compassion to Paul and to the officer. By showing his compassion he actually saved the all the prisoners and the guard and the guard’s family. In the compassion of Christ we see how the relationships are built and how they can grow. But when we focus on the condemnation of people this stops our relationships, that stops progression, that stops love.
In the these scenarios we are not to see how condemnation will bring Christ to us, but we are shown the compassion of Christ in some of the most tense intense times in the new church. We have this same spirit that Paul and Peter had during this first church. The Holy Spirit that allows us to be compassionate to one another over rules any of the potential condemnation of our past. No matter where we are in our life we can always come back to Christ. He is such a Benevolent father that he continuously wipes away all of our sins and all of our hurts, and all of our pains, and wants to give us love and compassion. If he can do this and we are in him we have to work diligently to give more compassion than condemnation.