An old friend once told me, what Billy Graham once told him but didn’t share often in public. That is, that years ago somewhere in China Billy approached a Buddhist monk praying on the side of a road and, through an interpreter, told the monk about Jesus and handed him a Bible.
Then, through the interpreter and through tears of joy, the monk told Billy: “How could I ever thank you for such a book? This Jesus you described—I’ve always known him. As you were reading from this book, within me, he was saying, ‘he’s talking about me.’ And when you said the name ‘Jesus,’ he said to me, ‘That’s my name. That’s my name.’”
Billy Graham told my friend that he didn’t often share the story in public, for it offended and confused Evangelicals Christians. “Evangelical” literally means “good news teller.”
Why would Evangelicals find the good news of salvation to be offensive and confusing?
In Romans chapter 2, Paul revealed that all humanity will be judged with the same judgment. And in Romans 3:1, he anticipates this response: “Then, what advantage has the Jew?” That is, “What advantage has the Christian? If Jesus can just show up in the heart of a Buddhist, why talk about Jesus at all? What’s the advantage?”
Paul responds: “Much in every way! … Let God be true, and let every man be a liar.”
Yet every man lets himself be true and lets God be untrue–divided, changeable, and false.
Then Paul starts talking about justifying God’s judgment.
We think: We sinned, so God judges and inflicts wrath to reveal his judgment.
Paul thinks: God judged, so we sinned, so God could inflict wrath revealing his judgment, so that we would justify his judgment saying, “Wow that’s a good judgment! I could worship that judgment!”
Then Paul makes it clear that we all are untrue, and that Scripture has always revealed this to be true; there is a reason that we are confused and offended.
If we let God be true—undivided, unchanging, ubiquitous, and eternal—then, we must let ourselves be divided, changeable, limited, and temporal . . . as in, “dead.”
And that’s offensive. And confusing.
If you’ve been in the dark for a time, the light can be quite offensive.
But if you allow yourself to be offended, the light will cease to be offensive, and everything will begin to make sense, as the light makes sense of you.
In 1905 a 24-year-old clerk, named Albert Einstein was riding a bus and looking back at the clock tower in Bern Switzerland. He imagined what he would experience if the bus were traveling at the speed of light. He suddenly realized that the hands on the clock tower would stop, and not just seem to stop, actually stop, for him… if he were light.
But we’re not light, are we?
We’re matter and energy moving through space and time, right?
Until Einstein, physicists assumed that matter, energy, space, and time were constant and then built their house on that foundation.
But Einstein jacked up the house and suggested a new foundation: the speed of Light.
He took it as a constant, and everything else changed—matter, energy, space, and time.
To us, Light appears to be two incompatible things—a particle or a wave.
But maybe we are two incompatible things and light is One—undivided, unchanging, true.
Physicists have discovered:
1. Light is one and undivided
2. Light is unchanging. It exists in some sort of eternal now.
3. Light is ubiquitous. Whether we “see” it or not, light is everywhere and every-when. In light, we literally “live, move and have our being.”
Scripture declares, “God is light.”
Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.”
Paul wrote, “You were darkness, but NOW you are light in the Lord.”
If you believe that, it will jack up your house and replace the foundation; you will repent and “walk as children of light.”
I call it St. Paul’s Theological Theory of Relativity.
“Let God be true” (that’s the constant) “and let every man be a liar” (that’s the variable).
Look at the One hanging on the tree in the garden.
Do you let him be true, or do you let yourself be true?
Is he undivided, unchanging, and ubiquitous? How would you know? How do you judge?
You could take his life, like fruit from a tree. That’s the original sin. That’s a bad choice.
He could give his life even before you took it. That’s the original blessing. That’s the eternal judgment of God. That’s the Light of the world.
We can only know because we judge God’s Judgment and everything dies (That’s sin) and because God judges our judgment (that’s grace) and everything lives, as we say, “Wow! That’s a great judgment! Thank you!” (That’s the Kingdom of God).
What difference does this make?
It’s the difference between nothing and everything.
It’s also how you could enjoy Thanksgiving or a great banquet.
Imagine all your relatives at Thanksgiving dinner:
Now, let all of them be true. . . Expect them to be true and you’ll be horribly disappointed, have a terrible time at dinner, and not be thankful.
Now, let some of them be true . . . And you’ll begin asking, “Who’s true and who’s not true? And who paid for the turkey?” You’ll get offended, confused, and not be thankful.
Now, let God be true and all of them be false. . . And a miracle begins to happen.
You realize: “No one deserves turkey; it’s all gift. None is right; for all are wrong. If anyone speaks the truth (including your cousin, the Buddhist) it’s not her that’s speaking; it’s the Truth within her speaking; it’s Jesus. And if you believe that this is true it’s not even you that’s doing the believing; it’s Christ in you, for although you were faithless, he remains faithful. You are the Judgment of God. You are his creation.
Your ex-wife asks you to pass the turkey—the Butterball Turkey—and so, you pass the ball . . . and it’s fun. It is the Judgment of God in the Kingdom of God and you’re thankful.