A little while ago I was surfing You Tube for some illustrations to use in a service. I came across a rather anti-Christian video that has really troubled me over the past few months. The video was actually a stick-figure cartoon in which a poor, innocent little character with red shoes is approached by a policeman who informs him that he has broken a law: The president doesn’t like red shoes. So, the officer tells the man that he will be hauled away and executed. The little man is genuinely shocked and on the verge of emotional breakdown when the officer informs him that, not to worry, he doesn’t have to die. In fact, the president slaughtered his own son so the little man could go free, because “the president loves you.” The little man shows joy and exuberance as he and the officer share a warm embrace. The heading for the video reads “How Amazing is God’s Forgiveness? Not very.”
The clip bothered me more than most, but for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. I’ve heard plenty of anti-Christian propaganda before. I usually find it sad and unfortunate, and it usually rolls off like water off a duck’s back. For some reason, this one stuck. The clip used humor to try and show that the whole Christian principle is totally ludicrous. Broken down, the message might look like this:
1. God makes man.
2. God makes a bunch of ridiculously absurd laws, knowing full well that man can’t possibly follow them (admittedly, Leviticus and Deuteronomy look pretty crazy when taken out of context).
3. God sentences man to death / eternal punishment for not following the laws that God never intended man to be able to follow in the first place.
4. But God loves man, so he kills his own son instead of man.
5. How amazing is God’s forgiveness? Not very.
The author is right. If that is indeed the message, Christianity is pretty ridiculous. But even this is not really what bothered me. What bothered me the most were the responses given by angry Christians as they engaged in argumentative battles with the author and other Christian-haters. Some Christians hurled insults – not representing Christ very well. Others, out of ignorance of their own faith, argued that yes, we know it seems silly, but it’s true! Still others tried to offer rebuttals, but most failed to really explain why the video was actually in error.
Funny thing is, the author of the video is actually really close to the truth. With a few minor details changed, and a shift in perspective, the story fits into place. But what angered me is that most Christians couldn’t articulate those errors. It shows me how shallow we have become in our faith as a culture. Here are a few things that might set the story straight:
First, God isn’t all about rules. Unfortunately, we are.
God created man for a purpose – to be his noble representatives and stewards of his creation, reflecting / representing all that God is upon one another and back to God himself in worship. With this kind of fellowship and relationship, Man didn’t need rules. We could completely trust, rely, and depend on God to sustain and protect us.
What is striking about the garden of Eden is that man didn’t choose to do evil by eating of the tree. Rather, he made the choice to have to bear the responsibility to do good. Remember Satan’s deception? “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Mankind made the choice to rely on himself and his own abilities, rather than God.
It didn’t take long for mankind to fail. Within one generation we had already committed murder. We chose to bear the responsibility of morality on our own strength, but we couldn’t bear that burden, and sin crept in. The result of sin is human brokenness, divorce, anger, injustice, pain, war, etc. and ultimately death… not exactly what God had intended.
It is in that context that God made an agreement with Abraham and a promise to restore all humanity. The agreement led to His covenant – the law that had to be fulfilled. The intent was to show the world who God is, and that with Him, a world that is free from the ravages of sin is possible.
This law couldn’t be fulfilled with man’s own strength alone, so it was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, whom, in doing so, has become the first to overcome all that sin has done to man. No longer bound by death, he is resurrected and alive today, and has been given dominion over the earth as was God’s intention for man. Jesus is the true Lord, and in him and him alone there is hope for a humanity still suffering on account of our own mistakes… not exactly punishment for wearing red shoes. Those who would follow Christ must die with him and be reborn in spirit, so that when the time is right and Christ returns, His people will also be raised – freed from death – as He has been raised.
Alright, so that’s the good news (Gospel) in a nutshell. If I’ve missed anything, feel free to chime in. Why do we have such a hard time expressing this, even as Christians?
– Mike Rauwolf
The video makes God the sinner instead of man. It’s based on a faulty presumption to begin with. It is man that needs to be reconciled to God and not visa-versa. You have done a wonderful job reversing the weight of responsibility which the video-maker refuses to accept.
It’s always easy to minimize our sin by trivializing the big picture in the first place. Making extreme and condescending numerations to make a point is never a good method for argument. If God’s forgiveness were as simple as the illustration presents, then there is nothing amazing about forgiveness at all. The implication that any who believe such things are silly is no doubt what most believers take umbrage with. Forgiveness is amazing because of the depth of love it took to achieve it—that simple! That is never mentioned in the video.
Thanks for posting and your insights!
Thanks for your comments. You’re absolutely right. If forgiveness were achieved by the means the author describes, there wouldn’t be much to it, but considering the bigger picture and the shear weight of brokenness that God himself bore on the cross out of that incredible love… that makes forgiveness truly amazing – the depth of which can’t be found anywhere else. I appreciate your comments.
Back to the tree of life, from my perspective God had to set up the situation so that there was a choice, so He gave us ONE rule to observe…
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
Being obedient is only relevant/valid if it’s coupled with an option to be disobedient. Otherwise you could say that “goodness” occurred in a “vacuum” so to speak.
“What is striking about the garden of Eden is that man didn’t choose to do evil by eating of the tree. Rather, he made the choice to have to bear the responsibility to do good.”
That’s deep, and true, God tried to protect man from himself…
“Why do we have such a hard time expressing this, even as Christians?”
perhaps this is why…
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
Paul’s words are true even more so today!
Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate your observations on Genesis 3 and obedience. God had to offer the choice in the garden because he is a God of love, not a ruthless dictator who delights in setting unobtainable standards as if it were a child’s game. Thanks for posting your comments.
Ah – very excellent insights. Looking at Genesis 3 the discerning of Good/Evil was not even an issue yet as at that point there was only the decision of being in the will of God or not! They could eat of any tree in the garden, but the one prohibition became bigger than everything.
Satan suggested “has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” What God said in 2:16 was “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely.” Hardly the exclusiveness Satan suggests and a great picture of the liberality of God toward man. So it is incredible forgiveness when you consider all that was lost in the one choice to not do God’s will!
Ephesians 5:17 NAS
17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
It’s not about good or evil, right or wrong; we return the the original plan, understanding the will of God and doing that.