Okay, so I kinda gave away the answer to the question(s) I’m about to ask…
Let’s back up. It’s been a while since I posted after my Taiwan food diary. Anyway, it’s good to get back to theological matters (though I really should be getting back to analyzing the Greek of Ephesians and Hebrews).
Anyway, we had a good discussion in my class on Proverbs. After a long discussion on wisdom and torah and fear of Yahweh, we came to this question: Can non-Christians live a wise life?
Put another way: Can non-Yahweh-fearers truly love one another?
Well, yes and no. Indeed, to paraphrase Jesus, what does it profit a man if he has all the wisdom in the world (if that is possible for non-fearers of God, cf. Prov 1:7) but lose his soul?
Still, we cannot deny that non-believers can actually be genuine nice people. They can write good music. They can do good science. They can truly love one another. But how is this possible?
Before I answer that, let’s take a look at a fictional conversation between Christian A and Christian B.
A: You ever notice how sometimes non-believers tend to be nicer or sometimes smarter than some Christians you know?
A: You ever wonder, when you see some non-Christians you know, say a couple. They seem to love each other, don’t they?
B: Well, they only seem to love each other. We all know that without Jesus and without God in their lives, they can’t truly love each other, right?
A: Really? I’m not so sure.
Okay, sorry if that was a little staged. But can they really love each other? I think the answer is a resounding YES! And this truth can actually have great apologetic value!
In other words, you don’t need go up to them and say, “Hey, did you know that you don’t really love each other? Only in Christ can you truly love your significant other!”
Instead, you can say to them, “Hey, you guys really seem to love each other. That’s an amazing love you have! Did you know that this is a gift from our heavenly Father? I know it is, because what you have is truly good, and all good things come from God. And did you know, he has given us his greatest gift of love in his own Son, Jesus Christ…”
Indeed, here the doctrine of Common Grace is really helpful. It’s a robust doctrine that tells us that all good gifts come from God, and God really gives good gifts. No, they do not lead to salvation, for Jesus is the only Way (John 14:6), but these gifts are truly good. Indeed, Jesus tells us, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45 ESV). That really makes us rethink about what it means for God to be a good and generous God, doesn’t it? He doesn’t just care about Christians. Now he isn’t a namby pamby and overlook sin. That’s misunderstanding the devastating seriousness of sin/Sin. But he did give the world his only Son to die on the cross for their sins and to free them from the bondage of Satan and Sin, to lead the captives into his kingdom. He does not delight in the death of the wicked, but delights in every one who repents and lives (Ezek 18:23).
This reminder of God’s graciousness to all helped me to reorient my understanding of God’s goodness and remind me that life on this Earth does matter to him. And personally, when I would lead the time of prayer and sharing for our Student Fellowship/Bible Study on Friday nights, I was, for a long time, conflicted when people would thank God for X or Y good blessing! Indeed, I was even more in a pickle when they would pray that God take away hardships, etc. in their life!
What a scrooge/grinch I was! For in my mind, I was thinking about how we needed to expect suffering in our Christian walks with God (which is true, don’t get me wrong). Perhaps God doesn’t want you to be comfortable and live an easy life (also true). Indeed, when I ended the time of sharing with prayer, I would even throw in a reminder that we are to expect suffering.
Now all of this may not be totally wrong theologically, but something is wrong when you do not thank God for a good gift. I was so zealous to remind everyone that we need to and will suffer, but I have almost thought that some of God’s provisional/temporal blessings were not really all that good! Shame on me!
Yes we are called to suffer, but when God gives us a good house, a good family, money, food, shelter, friends, comfort, we must not be complacent or lazy or stingy toward God, but neither should we forget that these are true blessings from God. After all, it is good that the church isn’t persecuted (amazingly, it is also good for the Gospel that the church is persecuted! But that’s for another day…). We should pray for the peace of the church. When God actually grants peace and grace to his church, can we not call a good gift what it is and thank God? I pray that God will continue to correct and reprove me so that I can see a good thing for what it is, namely, a good gift from God, the source of every spiritual and physical blessing.