I found an email this week that I’d written over fifteen years ago. Our church was going through a series of sermons based on signs and bumper stickers.
Today’s sermon was about a church
sign that said, "Get saved, or you will go to hell."
Our preacher said that this is an
example of how you can be right and wrong at the same time. He said that
believe that there is a hell, but
that he doesn't think using scare tactics is the best way to get people to come
to God. If people have a relationship
built on fear, their inclination
will be to try to avoid the one they're afraid of, not try to have a close
relationship with him.
He used the story in John 8 about
the woman caught in adultery to show that Jesus used grace and mercy rather
than fear to save the woman. He said that Jesus could have stoned her,
because He was the only One there Who had no sin, but instead He said that He
did not condemn her, and told her to go her way and leave her life of
Our minister said that probably
why there was conflict in the early church as to whether or not to include this
story was because there were people in the church who felt, just like the
Pharisees, it made Jesus seem soft on sin. And they didn't like that.
But he said he believes it is a
true story, and that there are other incidents in the gospels that show Jesus'
mercy and grace rather than condemnation to sinners.
This reminded me of one of my
favorite stories of how Jesus dealt with someone others wanted to avoid.
They sailed to the region of the
Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he
was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had
not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When
he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his
voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you,
don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the
man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and
kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon
into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your
“Legion,” he replied, because many
demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to
go into the Abyss.
A large herd of pigs was feeding
there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs,
and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went
into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was
When those tending the pigs saw
what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside,
and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they
found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet,
dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.
This is a beautiful story to me, that Jesus obviously extended tender care to this man, saw that he was dressed again. And the man wanted to be nowhere but at Jesus’ feet.