Victor Chininin Buele
We have a lot up in the air! Things going up, things coming down. Outrage on the left and outrage on the right. Put them on, keep them off. My body, my choice. Don’t tread on me.
I would like to propose to you that these all are just fruits of the same root.
We do not know how to repent.
And we do not know how to repent because we’ve been pretending for too long that there is no such thing as sin.
You see, if everyone can be simultaneously right about everything, it is only a matter of time before one wants to fly a Confederate flag and another wants to take down his great grandpa’s statue downtown. And we can no longer push the discussion any further into Never Land. The time of judgment is here. And we do not know how to repent. We can’t keep pretending our problems, our sin, don’t exist.
My focus here today is rather narrow. If people were truly repenting, what we are seeing would look like kids’ play because of the number of things that would be going up and coming down because of true repentance.
You see, the Christian gospel is not about coercion. Most people believe a caricature of the Christian gospel—that we are here to force you to believe things. That we are here to make you comply with how we want the world to be. Do this, don’t do that, say this, don’t say that, love this and not that, love in this way and not this other way. That is absolutely not what the gospel is.
Also, the Christian gospel is at the same time the most inclusive and exclusive message. It calls everyone to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord—no exceptions, no preferences. We are all called to bend the knee to Jesus: the lawyer, the landscaper, the Mexican, the Indonesian, the Hindu, the Muslim, Trump, Biden, my mother, your mother, me, you. No distinctions, no barriers, no excuses. Everyone must have access to the gospel. They must hear. We can’t force you to hear. We can’t force you to repent. God has to do that work in you. And if you remain in your sins, that is quite a tragic story with a different ending that none of us should want.
But if you do believe, a miracle happens, where everything changes inside of you. That which you once called good is shown for what it truly was all along. And you want to change.
You will have to die to self. You will want to be freed from your chains. And some of those chains are thick and heavily secured over a lifetime of doing that which is not pleasing to God. You may have to deal with the marks on you and some of their weight even until the moment you leave this life. But, you will be increasingly, every day freer and freer.
You see, I don’t buy that Donald Trump is a Christian. I know many people I love deeply and care and respect a lot believe he is. My point is not to fight, but I want to share why I don’t buy that. Why don’t I believe he is a Christian? Because I have not seen Trump get hit by a Mack truck, figuratively, please Secret Service, don’t read that literally. I have not seen President Trump hit by the cost of discipleship yet. I have not seen President Trump broken and contrite saying good bye to the old Donald Trump. Why would a redeemed man hide his tax returns? Why would a redeemed man not speak the truth about so many things? Why would a redeemed man not count others as more significant than himself?
But it is important that I take you to him because one of the most critical things that are happening, if we are paying attention, is that he has caught your attention! Were it not for Donald Trump at this key moment in history, you would still be happily walking to Never Land without having to deal with the sober reality of truth. You see, somebody had to come and lie so much that you would have to admit that the world of relativism that we built is a lie. Somebody had to come and be so immoral that you would have to come and admit that there must be some semblance of morality somewhere.
And that’s where we need to come and reckon with our own sins.
I know what it is like to miss out on going to to an elite university on a scholarship partly because the school board of a small town in rural America did not give me a class rank. I don’t dare to directly associate that to my national origin because that would definitely be a Title VII violation, and that would be unthinkable, right? It didn’t matter that my dad fought for me. I know what it is like to walk into fancy restaurants and be asked if I’m there not to dine in because I’m brown. I know the looks of a bathroom shared by at least a dozen undocumented immigrants paying far more for renting a room in the outskirts of Newark than I was paying for renting a luxurious apartment in Nebraska. I know what it is like to be taken seriously by somebody until I open my mouth with my accent. I know what it is like to be assumed to not be a U.S. citizen and treated with disdain. I know.
You see, I used to cross the street whenever I saw a man from Esmeraldas walking in Loja. Let me translate that for you, I used to cross the street whenever I saw a black man walking towards me. I AM NOT WHITE! But we all sin in forming our own little tribes, groups, and excluding others. And that’s just the root. The fruits are awful—we call them names, we mock them, we ridicule them, we can do all sorts of things. We can exclude them from everything and reach awful places. If you read the history of the Jews, you know what Hitler did. This is deeply embedded in us. We are rotten. This is also not new at all. We see this in the New Testament:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.1 Timothy 5:21 (ESV)
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory[…] But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.James 2:1, 9 (ESV)
Racism is a flavor of this. I have repented of that. I have been changed. It is a miracle. I cannot imagine what my life would be like had God not changed me in this way. I treasure the blessing of friends and brothers and sisters from all kinds of backgrounds. I have brothers and sisters in Bangkok. I have brothers and sisters in Mexico. I have brothers and sisters in Brazil. I have brothers and sisters in France, the UK, Spain, several countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas. It is amazing to hear them, to know how they think, to have had my theology tried and tested and improved and pushed upwards by them and their realities and lives.
And they sang a new song, saying,Revelation 5:9-10
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
That is what’s coming. That’s what eternity looks like. Variegated. Diverse. Rich. In complete unity. Worshiping the Lamb who was slain for every evil word, thought, and deed I have committed against every human being, Caucasian, African, Latino, Asian, everyone. My sins are truly many. I still cannot comprehend entirely how in the world I can dare to approach the throne of mercy with all the sin in my life. But I do know it is because of Jesus. Jesus Christ, the One who had to destroy my life, my so-called hopes and dreams, my aspirations, and become the “gracious Savior of my ruined life.” He came that I may have life and that I may be an “instrument in the Redeemer’s hands.” I am not my own. I was bought for a price, the price of the precious blood of Jesus.
And it is in Him, through Him, and by Him that we can have true peace.
But it does require us all to die to ourselves. To lay down all our sin, all our trash. All of it. Far more than Confederate statues and monuments to materialism and the worship of ourselves.
Until then, just remember, if this were true repentance, we would be seeing a coming down of statues and idols of a truly cosmic magnitude, and we would start to see the glimpse of the glory of the Lord filling the earth.
And that is where this cancel culture fails us. There must be redemption. True repentance leads to true redemption. The beef is that since we can’t acknowledge our sin (personally first, then collectively, etc.), we can’t rightly repent, so we can’t be redeemed. And we all know that. That’s why people get canceled as permanently irredeemable. Because when this is left to fester, it becomes a main propeller for seeking vindication by ourselves. Until we get that it is God who is offended first and foremost, we will keep trying to get people to make atonement to us. And this will never get fixed. And what is worse is that those who feel canceled are going to be able to vilify their ‘cancelers’ (is that what I should call them?) as seeing them as irredeemable because they are spotting the fake repentance.
Let’s be clear. True repentance will be seen and known. Loud and clear. All deadly, idolatrous, cheap substitutes MUST COME DOWN! Bring them down!