WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN
I often get into conversations with non-christian friends which I wish I could “re-do”. I do not handle them well. This happened to me, once again, a couple weeks ago.
I got into a conversation which I usually try to avoid. I usually try to avoid political discussions. I won’t go into the reasons why right now - maybe some other time. Anyway, my friend, who knows I am a Christian, embarked on an impassioned speech about how progressives were ushering in a great time of justice. With the gains by the LGBTQ community; the transgender community; in the Black Lives Matter Movement; the Green Movement; and the Me Too Movement - our society was being transformed into a far more just society. I listened. When he paused, I said something to the effect that there was growing persecution and intolerance for people like me, an evangelical Christian. I said that it seemed like “free speech” rights were being eroded. His response was swift and very interesting. He said something to the effect that it is a bit unfortunate that evangelical Christians are being discriminated against, but, this is only fair, because Christians had silenced and persecuted women, LGBTQ, and people of colour.
At this point I was silent. I didn’t really know what to say. It was a bit awkward, but after a minute or so our conversation moved onto neutral matters. Afterwards I thought of an “authority” my friend might listen to that would have helped the conversation.
In 1971, Peter Townshend, of The Who, wrote the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The song is a critique of revolutionary movements. Several times during the song, Roger Daltry sings “Then I get on my knees and pray, we don’t get fooled again”. The song’s famous ending words are, “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss”.
My friend did not realize that he believed two contradictory beliefs at the same time. The first was that we were living in a far more just world. The second was that the new “justice”was justified in being just like the old “justice” in silencing and marginalizing people. In other words, the new boss was the same as the “old” and unjust boss.
Christians are to know that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We are not made right with God because we are better than other people. Our Lord did not “weigh our merits”. He “pardoned our offences”. This double truth - the truth that we are not better, with the truth that on our behalf Christ has accomplished everything that needed to be done to make us right with God, means at least three things can and should grow in us.
First, that we have the security in Christ to acknowledge when we have been unjust. We are not better than other people. Our identity should not be threatened by recognizing sin in how we have acted, or are acting. Grace grants freedom to repent and seek amendment of life.
Second, the Gospel shapes us to seek to live a life characterized by justice and mercy. When Jesus died for us, it meant God’s justice was not compromised. But in dying for us, Jesus offered to us the mercy of God. So we can seek both justice and mercy.
Third, God’s justice is “absolute”, not “relative”, and justice cannot be justice if it is relative rather than absolute. When our justice is utilitarian (and relative) then the good “end” justifies unjust or even deeply evil means. Only the Gospel shows how God is absolutely just, absolutely moral, and absolutely merciful.