Friday, September 08, 2017

Pointing Sinners to Christ by Saying "I Don't Care"

I'm a movie buff.

Maybe this penchant for movie watching derives from a strict parental prohibition against watching movies during childhood based on the parental belief that anything originating from Hollywood must be evil and therefore the Burleson children must be isolated and protected from such evil.

I'm a prime example that external boundaries imposed (e.g. "Thou shalt not") become internal longings produced (e,g, "I must have"). As Paul said, "I wouldn't have known what it means to covet until the Law said, 'You shalt not covet.' But sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the Law, sin is dead" (Romans 7:7-8).

So I see movies. Often.

In my opinion, a movie can provide a good illustration for sound theology (e.g. theology means "the knowledge of God"). Don't misunderstand. No movie serves as a revelation of God. There is a difference between illustration and revelation. We can only know who God is through revelation, so God graciously reveals Himself to us in His Word.
"In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days God has spoken to us through his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe." (Heb.1:1-2). 
You want to know God? Find Him in Jesus Christ.

But as I said, if you want an illustration of how God works, you might find it in a Hollywood movie.

Let me show you one of my favorite illustrations of God's character from a movie.

Tommy Lee Jones won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor when he played a United States Marshal opposite Harrison Ford in the classic movie (my all-time favorite) entitled The Fugitive.

Ford played Dr. Richard Kimble, a man who was falsely accused of killing his wife. After escaping police custody during a bus crash while being transported to prison, Dr. Kimble runs from the dogged pursuit of a U.S. Marshal (Jones) who is intent on capturing the fugitive.

The most memorable scene in the movie is when the U.S. Marshal confronts Dr. Kimble in a water tunnel over a dam, right before the latter jumps to freedom.  Harrison Ford points a pistol at Tommy Lee Jones and yells "I didn't kill my wife!" and Jones fires back a classic line...

"I don't care!"

The beauty of this line is that it sums up the Marshal's position in the movie. He really doesn't care what Dr. Kimble has or hasn't done. His job is to bring Dr. Kimble in.

Many don't know that Tommy Lee Jones actually improvised his classic response to Ford's line, "I didn't kill my wife!" The script as originally written called for Jones to respond by saying "So you didn't kill your wife?" 

But Tommy Lee Jones forgot his line. He improvised. He said the first thing that came to his mind, the memorable movie line - "I don't care."

An Illustration of Sound Biblical Theology

I see in that scene from The Fugitive an illustration of God's relationship with us, and our relationship with other people.

Every one of us seemingly has a dire need to proclaim our moral innocence. Yes, I know that Dr. Kimble was actually innocent of killing his wife, but when it comes to God, nobody stands before Him morally innocent.
As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12; cf Psalm 14:1-3; Eccles. 7:20). 
If we accept that there nobody is right before God, then we come to the logical question, "How then is anyone made right with God?" And the answer is clear:
"But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24). 
God makes sinners right with Him at the cross of Jesus Christ.

Churches and various religions, however, will often get into prolonged conversations about who's guilty, who's not guilty; who's innocent, who's not innocent; who's worthy, who's unworthy; who's morally good, who's not morally good.

It's as if religious people want to follow the script and say, "So, tell me, you really didn't do this...?" while we who are self-righteous stand on the other side shouting and proclaiming our innocence.

We tend to treat our sins like we do our children. We nurture them, protect them,  hang on to them, and compare them to the sins of others. "Mine are better; yours are worse" or "They're not as bad as they seem."

But I hear God saying, "I don't care!"

The one thing God is concerned with is bringing sinners in - into an understanding of His love. God is pursuing us and capturing us in order to convince us of His love for us.
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (I John 4:10). 
All God cares about is that we embrace His love for us through His Son.

The word "atonement" means an "at-one-moment." God, in His love for morally guilty people like us who've been running from Him as Judge all our lives, has given us His Son as "an atoning sacrifice for our sins." At the cross, God brought us to an "at-one-moment" with Him. He reconciled Himself to us when we were still at enmity with Him. In other words, our sins have been dealt with in Christ.

Believe it. Receive it. Enjoy it.

You are free from the guilt and shame of sin because of Jesus Christ.

We are Harrison Ford in the water tunnel, frantically shouting to anyone who will listen how innocent we really are. We are comparing our sins to others; hiding our gross sin from others, all the while shouting over and over, "I may have done this ____ (fill in the blank), but at least I didn't do this.... (fill in the blank)."

All the while God is gently saying,

"I don't care!" 

God doesn't care if you've had an abortion.

God doesn't care if you've slept with dozens of people.

God doesn't care if you've had sex with people from the same sex.

God doesn't care if you're addicted and can't seem to stop your addictions.

God doesn't care if you've lied, stolen, and done things that should put you behind bars.

In love, He sent His Son to pay the penalty we sinners owe Him (death). 

God only cares that you embrace His Son. 

That's all. 

I can hear Christians saying, "But Wade, please, be careful! If you continue to say 'God doesn't care how you live, then people won't care how they live." 

You're misunderstanding me. 

When God says, "I don't care," it doesn't mean that He doesn't care about the pain you feel because of your sin, pain which comes to you and to others because of the nature of sin. It doesn't mean that God doesn't care enough to help you understand how your life can change and how you can find freedom from your sins. 

All "I don't care" means is that God isn't requiring you to declare your innocence or lack of guilt to find the favor and mercy of God. God is capturing you by His love in the midst of your guilt. And by golly, if this is what God is doing, then I'm going to do the same thing.

I don't care.

This morning I've put in a call to the former mayor of our city. The headlines in today's paper are "Ex-Mayor Resigns from Bank Amid Police Investigation." It could be that our former mayor may proclaim his innocence to me. It could be that people in leadership over at the bank may proclaim to me the ex-mayor's guilt. It might be our community will get into the water tunnel over the dam of life and point fingers and get into verbal wars over another man's guilt or innocence.

I don't care.

Of course the police care. They should. Their job is to uphold the law. Of course the overseers of the bank care. They should. Their job is to uphold banking regulations. 

I don't care.

My job is to point people to Jesus Christ. 

I know many people are living through "hell" right now because they've made really poor choices in this life. Sin is destructive. I get it. I get it because I've made many stupid, poor decisions myself. 

But in my opinion, none of us can ever truly wrestle away from our compulsions toward destructive behaviors till we come to the knowledge that God is saying "I don't care." 

God only cares that we come to know His love for us in His Son. 

I think we all might find our inner compulsions toward destructive behaviors seem to die a quicker death when we come to the place of understanding the outer prohibitions from a stern authority have been removed.

That's exactly what God did for us at the cross.

God's reconciled to us by His grace for us in Jesus Christ, not by our proclamations of innocence.

Those who refuse to embrace God's love for sinners at the cross will find a day is coming when their patient, loving Creator will be asking about those things they did in life. God cares about the conduct of those who spurn His love, for it is only His love that truly changes one's conduct.
"Kiss the Son, or God will be angry and your path in life will lead to destruction. Blessed are all those who take REFUGE in Him" (Psalm 2:12). 


Unknown said...

Love. it.

Bob Cleveland said...

I have often asked folks what we're freed from, by the Truth that sets us free. Most think it's from hell, but I always tell them that's a promise for dead Christians, and "How about live ones?"

Nobody's known yet, but you've pretty well answered it.


Christiane said...

"Churches and various religions, however, will often get into prolonged conversations about who's guilty, who's not guilty; who's innocent, who's not innocent; who's worthy, who's unworthy; who's morally good, who's not morally good.
It's as if religious people want to follow the script and say, "So, tell me, you really didn't do this...?" while we who are self-righteous stand on the other side shouting and proclaiming our innocence.
We tend to treat our sins like we do our children. We nurture them, protect them, hang on to them, and compare them to the sins of others. "Mine are better; yours are worse" or "They're not as bad as they seem."
But I hear God saying, "I don't care!""

I have often thought about how very 'human' it is for us to look down on others and judge them, knowing full well we also are sinners, but in our pride we become blinded to our own sin and then we magnify the sin of 'the others' in our judging.
And I have wondered if God is not watching us judge others and if He is not examining our own hearts and maybe planning some way of grace to help us step back from the place of looking down on others . . . . and then gives us the freedom to put our punishing stones down and instead to be encouraged to help bear one another's burdens

Our Lord was frequently judged for NOT judging others, for hanging out with sinners, for speaking to women in public, for 'not caring' about those things that the Pharisees constantly pointed out and judged harshly....... and so people came to Him to be healed, to be forgiven, to find peace and they still do. Unless they are discouraged.

Christiane said...

""“For he who endeavours to amend the faults of human weakness ought to bear this very weakness on his own shoulders, let it weigh upon himself, not cast it off.
For we read that the Shepherd in the Gospel (Luke 15:5) carried the weary sheep, and did not cast it off.

And Solomon says: “Be not overmuch righteous;” (Ecclesiastes 7:17) for restraint should temper righteousness.

For how shall he offer himself to you for healing whom you despise, who thinks that he will be an object of contempt, not of compassion, to his physician?

Therefore had the Lord Jesus compassion upon us in order to call us to Himself, not frighten us away. He came in meekness, He came in humility, and so He said:
“Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” (Matthew 11:28)
So, then, the Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off, and fitly chose such disciples as should be interpreters of the Lord’s will, as should gather together and not drive away the people of God.

Whence it is clear that they are not to be counted among the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek;
persons who, while they themselves seek God’s mercy, deny it to others . . .”

St. Ambrose
(340-379 A.D.)

Rex Ray said...


The “fugitive” was our favorite TV serial to watch. As in most movies there is the ‘good’ vs. the ‘bad’. Dr. Kimble represented the Good and the Marshal represented the Bad.

Every episode revealed Kimble being good by helping someone. Before he found his wife dead, he had wrestled with a ‘one arm man’ that killed his wife.

His search for the ‘one arm man’ is similar to “The Mentalist” looking for “Red John who killed his wife and daughter; and “Monk” looking for the murderer who killed his wife.

When the Marshal said, “I don’t care”, I believe he represented evil because he wasn’t interested in justice and right or wrong, but only in his pride to prevent defeat.

I get the point in God saying “I don’t care” what your sins are because of (John 3:16).

This may open a ‘can of worms’, but you wrote: “That’s exactly what God did for US at the cross.”

I believe “That’s exactly what God did for ALL at the cross.” :)

A person in hell cannot blame God for Jesus NOT dying for him. His greatest regret will be: “Why didn’t I trust in Jesus because he died for me?”

Anonymous said...

So totally agree that what God cares about is that we embrace what He did for us at the cross. But to do that, we have to admit we are sinners. Which is why so many of us vehemently refuse to call sin "not sin" just to be politically correct. As long as Satan can keep us playing "I'm ok, you're ok" nobody comes to saving faith. Only when we are clear "I'm not ok and you're not ok" can we beggars help others find the Bread of Life.


carl4grace said...

An excellent blog illustrating God's marvelous GRACE (God's Riches At Christ's Expense) through a movie.