6 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHRIST’S HEART FOR SINNERS by Dane C. Ortlund for Core Christianity
Q: Is God mad at me for my sin?
A: Fallen, anxious sinners are limitless in their capacity to perceive reasons for Jesus to cast them out. We are factories of fresh resistances to Christ’s love. Even when we run out of tangible reasons to be cast out, such as specific sins or failures, we tend to retain a vague sense that, given enough time, Jesus will finally grow tired of us and hold us at arm’s length.
We cannot present a reason for Christ to finally close off his heart to his own sheep. No such reason exists. Every human friend has a limit. If we offend enough, if a relationship gets damaged enough, if we betray enough times, we are cast out. The walls go up. With Christ, our sins and weaknesses are the very resumé items that qualify us to approach him. Nothing but coming to him is required—first at conversion and a thousand times thereafter until we are with him upon death.
Q: If Christ is perfectly holy, isn’t it necessary for him to withdraw from sin?
A: Here we enter into one of the profoundest mysteries of who God in Christ is. Not only are holiness and sinfulness mutually exclusive, but Christ, being perfectly holy, knows and feels the horror and weight of sin more deeply than any of us sinful ones could—just as the purer a man’s heart, the more horrified he is at the thought of his neighbors being robbed or abused. Conversely, the more corrupt one’s heart, the less one is affected by the evils all around.
Carry the analogy a little further. Just as the purer a heart, the more horrified at evil, so also the purer a heart, the more it is naturally drawn out to help and relieve and protect and comfort, whereas a corrupt heart sits still, indifferent. So with Christ. His holiness finds evil revolting, more revolting than any of us ever could feel. But it is that very holiness that also draws his heart out to help and relieve and protect and comfort. Again we must bear in mind the all-crucial distinction between those not in Christ and those in Christ. For those who do not belong to him, sins evoke holy wrath. How could a morally serious God respond otherwise? But to those who do belong to him, sins evoke holy longing, holy love, holy tenderness. In the key text on divine holiness (Isa. 6:1–8), that holiness (Isa. 6:3) flows naturally and immediately into forgiveness and mercy (Isa. 6:7).