Why Getting So Angry Might Not Help


Angry Bee BlogWhen a honey bee gets angry, it stings.  After the sting, it dies.  Literally, the bee gives its life in defense of its anger seeking revenge.  Our anger is often like that of the bee.  It is volatile and deadly.  And, like the bee, we are able to inflict only a temporary pain to the objects of our ire, yet we are likely to kill ourselves in the process.  The anger of man (or woman) does not bring about the righteousness of God (James 1:20).

Of course, I don’t mean that we physically die, as does the bee. Rather, I mean that something about us is lost when we unleash our poisonous stingers of anger against others.  We lose a right relationship with the person for one thing.  For another thing, we lose control of our own emotions.  But, even beyond these losses, we lose something else—something far more valuable than any reward of satisfaction we get by cutting another man or woman down to size.  We lose sight of God.

You see, our anger does not establish righteousness.  No matter how angry we get, no matter how many people we bring alongside of us to share in our anger, we cannot prove by that anger that we are right.  Miriam was angry with Moses. Moses was angry with Miriam and with the people in the wilderness.  The people in the wilderness were angry with God and Moses. Yet, none of these was considered righteous by God.  All their grumblings were sin.  In fact, their anger ended up making God angry with them because of their unbelief.

Did it matter that it was the majority opinion that they had a right to be angry?  No.  God does not establish righteousness by majority opinion.  He establishes righteousness by His own righteousness.  No matter how mad we get, no matter how many hornet’s nests of anger we stir up in others, no matter the size of the crowd or the volume of the protests—we will never attain to the righteousness of God by our anger.  Indeed, as with the case of the Israelites in the wilderness, our anger may only be a clear presentation of our own unrighteousness.  It does not matter that “everyone agAnger Blogrees” with our reason for being angry.  The anger of man does not—and will not ever—bring about the righteousness of God.  We lose sight of God when we curse our spouses, our bosses, our employees, our teachers, our team mates, our roommates, our siblings, or our parents.

Because we lose sight of God, we lose sight of ourselves, too.  Perhaps the worst thing our outbursts of anger prove is that we have a very unrealistic view of ourselves before God.  If we had any idea of how deeply our own private and public sins offend God, we would not dare allow our tongues out of our mouths as weapons to be employed against others.  We would be quiet and still in the presence of God’s holiness, and we would see sufficient reason for keeping our own mouths shut, lest He become angry with us, and we perish along the way.

So, anger clearly makes us think too highly of ourselves, too lowly of others, and way too little of God.  Instead of an outburst of anger, we should work to burst outwardly with grace toward others, remembering that Christ taught us “By your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3)

God simply refuses to be impressed with our anger.  He is too impressed with His Son who cleanses us from murderous thoughts and outbursts of anger (see Galatians 5).  May we be as impressed with Christ as the Father.  If that be the case, we would not exalt ourselves above others.  We would be much quieter and gentler.  And we would be more loving… and more joyful.

Christians Stop Calling Yourselves Sinners


Billy Joel famously confessed in song,

“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints

The sinners are much more fun—only the good die young!”

Overlooking his obvious false dichotomy between saints and fun and his full-throttled embrace of sin, we can give Joel credit for seeing something that many sinners and saints equally miss: Saints and sinners are two distinct groups of people. In this distinction, Billy Joel is being quite biblical.

These two categories, in fact, are biblical categories by which all of humanity can be divided.  The Bible makes this distinction in various ways: darkness/light; believers/unbelievers; children of God/children of the devil; and saints/sinners.  The New Testament does not call Christians sinners.

Did you hear that?  Christians are not addressed as sinners by the writers of the New Testament.  Christians are called saints. See Paul’s address to the Corinthians for a clear and very common example:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…

If Christians are saints, and not sinners, then why do Christians refer to themselves so often as sinners and almost never as saints?  I came up with four possible explanations. You may think of more (or better) explanations. Here are my four thoughts:

First, we Protestants have a lingering discomfort with the catholic traditions (Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox) because of their veneration of the saints. Variously, these traditions pray to the saints, hold feast days in their names, and revere certain saints above others. Indeed, these catholic traditions do not use the word saint to refer to all Christians set apart by the gospel. Rather, they use the term to refer to super holy Christians (or something like that).  So, the catholic traditions employ the term in a way we don’t like. We, in turn, choose not to use the term much at all.

Second, we are simply too aware of our own sins, individually and collectively, to think of ourselves as anything but sinners.  We know we have sinned terribly against the Lord.  We know that we still fall short of His glory. Thus, we think of ourselves as sinners.  We call ourselves sinners because we know that is what we have always been.

And all of this is true of course. We were born sinners.  We still sin.  Thus, in a very real sense, we are still sinners.  We feel the tension Martin Luther expressed so well: Simul iustus et peccator [at the same time, we are righteous and sinners]. Our problem is that the apostles and writers of the New Testament refer to Christians as saints, not sinners. Our experience makes us feel like sinners. (So, Paul would call himself the chief of sinners, yet he referred to believers in the churches as saints).  There is serious tension.

Third, let’s be honest—we are not comfortable being called saints. Going by the name sinner is easy. It sounds humble—“I’m just a poor sinner.”  It relieves our responsibility (and even guilt?) somewhat because we can identify with every other Christian who knows he, too, is just a poor sinner.  We commiserate.

Such thinking might also build a certain level of defeatism into our spiritual psyche.  When it comes to exercising spiritual discipline in the morning, it’s easier to slide into sinner mode than saint mode.  When it comes to fighting temptation toward lust, laziness, or lack of evangelistic zeal, we have an easier time consoling ourselves of our failures when we think of ourselves as failures—as sinners.

But the New Testament thinks of us differently. Peter, for instance, reminds his readers,

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Wow, that’s a high calling!  Peter and Paul tell us we are saints, holy, royal, and chosen. They do not say we are sinners, partly because (as a biblical category) sinners are condemned (see Paul in Romans 3:7, Peter in 1 Peter 4:18).  Mostly, they use saint as a reminder of our high calling in Christ.

Fourth, we might be confused about the term saint. What does it even mean?

Basically, a saint (‘agion) is a person who is sacred, holy, or “set apart.”  It does not mean super moral or super righteous Christians.  All Christians are called by God, set apart from the world.  We are no longer in the darkness, but we have been transferred into the light, into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.  As such, we are saints by God’s calling.

The Apostle Paul explains this concept in Romans 6:12-14:

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (ESV).

Paul is borrowing temple language. In the temple, there were instruments set apart for use in temple service. What was the difference between a

Fan of saints not sinners

www.Wallpixr.com
(Yes, I’m a saints fan!)

firepan in the temple and a firepan used, perhaps, in a pagan temple?  Nothing, materially speaking.  But everything in a spiritual and theological sense!  One was pleasing to almighty God and used for worshiping him.  The other was abhorrent to God and used to commit idolatry against Him.

Paul reminds us that we are called (set apart, saints) to be useful in worshiping God, not to be useful in the idolatrous practices of our past (or those present in the world).  We should remember our calling to be set apart. We should remember, as Paul told the Philippians, to let our lives be lived in a manner worthy of the gospel to which we have been called.  Today, we are to be instruments useful to God, set apart for His good purposes. We are His saints today. Therefore, we must go and be useful for God.

The distinction between saint and sinner is not essentially moral. Neither the saint nor the sinner is perfectly holy in moral terms. Yet, one is characterized by his sinful desires; the other is characterized by his holy desires.  One is characterized by idolatrous and fleshly practices; the other is characterized by godliness and usefulness to Christ and the gospel.

Billy Joel, it seems, got two things right. There are sinners, and there are saints. Which one are you today?

Why Persecution Is a Social Justice Priority


Persecution Social JusticeBrooke Parks at Persecutionblog asks an excellent question: Is Christian Persecution a Social Justice Issue? I believe that it is. At least, I believe that persecution is a justice issue. Parks is correct to note the limits of social justice. Parks points out that the goal of ministry to the persecuted is not to remove inequality. The goal is not simply to make the persecution go away. The goal, according to Parks, is “for the church to be the body of Christ to them and with them.” I completely agree. From the New Testament perspective, “Being the body of Christ to them and with them” is primarily an action of justice.  Caring for the persecuted is a fundamental expression of biblical justice. Perhaps the term “social” can be abandoned, but the idea of justice cannot. And here is why.

In the Old Testament, God Himself proved to be the one who would always “execute justice” and “love” the strangers and aliens among Israel (Deuteronomy 10). The revelation of God as the source of justice and love was supposed to govern Israel. Israel was expected to be like God, executing justice in her own midst, making sure that the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the powerless were not forgotten.  In addition, Israel was supposed to show love to those who came into her midst from the nations around. In this way, Israel, like God, was supposed to model justice and love.

When the time came for Israel to adopt a king, the Lord gave specific instructions for the king: (1) That the king should first read, study, meditate upon, and obey carefully God’s law (Deut 17:18-20); (2) Then, second, that the king would execute justice and righteousness. This function of the king was on splendid display when the Queen of Sheba came to call upon Solomon. She proclaimed,

because the LORD loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:9)

According to God, the king’s task was first to be just and, next, to execute laws of justice and righteousness for all of Israel.

When Christ came to establish His kingdom, He did so in righteousness. Christ was, of course, just. As He announced to John the Baptist, Christ also fulfilled all righteousness (Matthew 3:15).  Christ would later explain that basic discipleship—that is, a basic knowledge of what it means to follow Him—includes learning to be obedient to all His commands (Matthew 28:18-20, commonly called the Great Commission). Being obedient to Christ’s commands is essentially putting God’s justice and righteousness into action.

Christ came as a righteous king to establish God’s righteous kingdom. Consequently, Christ taught His followers that they must pursue righteousnessRighteousness Persecution and the kingdom as matters of first importance (Matthew 6:33).  Christ also taught His followers that their pursuit of justice/righteousness would lead them to be persecuted (see Matthew 5:10-12).

What all of this means is that to live the Christian life is to display God’s justice. Such a display will provoke persecution now just as it did when Christ and the Apostles ministered on earth. When Christ’s followers suffer persecution, they do so on account of righteousness (justice). They suffer for doing what is right in His name. It is His authority and His presence in His people which provokes the persecution.

So, in the New Testament, the first priority for social justice—that is, for feeding the poor, caring for widows, providing for orphans, and showing mercy to prisoners—is to minister to the persecuted and oppressed church. To use a common metaphor applied to the people of God in the New Testament, the first priority is to care for one’s own family—the family of God.

The idea of family first is evident in Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding the care of widows:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Christians are to do good to all people, but, especially, we are to do good to those who are of the household of faith, according to the Apostle Paul (Galatians 6:10). Not surprisingly, the New Testament is replete with examples of Christians doing good for fellow saints who are suffering.

Most references in the New Testament concerning feeding the poor actually understand the poor to be persecuted and suffering Christians. The offering Paul took from the churches was collected to care for needy, suffering saints in Jerusalem (see 1 Cor 16:1-4, Rom. 15:25). Paul Himself was partly responsible for the persecution which put these saints in such a needy state (see Acts 9:1-13). Little wonder, then, that after his conversion he felt responsible for their care.

When Paul went before Peter, James, and John to validate his commission to preach to the Gentiles, they gave him the right hand of fellowship and encouraged him to continue caring for the poor believers as he had been doing in Jerusalem (see Galatians 2:1-10).[1] Likewise, the admonitions in the book of James concerning the poor also are references to the brother or sister among you, that is, to the poor and needy Christians.

Further, the care of widows and orphans—which is called by James a “pure and undefiled religion”—is care for widows and orphans in the household of faith. These issues—typically called issues of social justice—are primarily issues of Christians acting rightly toward fellow brothers and sisters of the faith. They are issues of justice within the household of faith.

When the New Testament speaks of visiting prisoners, it means that Christians are responsible to remember (Hebrews 13:3) and care for fellow Christians who have been thrown into prison on account of Christ (cf. Hebrews 10:34). In fact, Peter made sure the early church held to an important distinction in categorizing imprisonment:

Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name (1 Peter 4:15-16; cf. 1 Peter 3:17).

John love persecutionIn the New Testament, issues of justice begin with the household of faith. As the household of faith learns to love one another rightly and, thus, executes the justice of God rightly so that God’s righteousness is on display, the world begins to see what justice and love actually are like. The whole world begins to know that Jesus Christ is present because of the way the Church loves one another (John 13:35). In this way, the Church witnesses to the world of Christ’s love.

So, it is important that the church exercises “justice” in caring for the poor and suffering Christians. In this way, ministry to the persecuted is the first order of “social justice” business. Our love for one another is crucial to our witness before the watching world.

Brooke Parks’ question has to be answered affirmatively: “Yes!” Persecution ministry is the foremost and primary act of social justice. Parks answered the question negatively, but only with regard to the non-biblical idea that justice concerns equality. Parks is correct to say that the goal of persecution ministry is not to bring society back into some arbitrary notion of balance or equity.  Rather, the goal of persecution ministry is to display the righteousness of God in the face of world’s unrighteous desire to be rid of Christ by executing His people.

See also:

http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2014/5/christian-persecution-an-injustice-for-all

 

[1] For fuller discussion, see Thomas Schreiner, Galatians, in the Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, published by Zondervan.

Preaching and Persecution Simply Explained


As noted in the first part of this article, Christ taught His original followers that persecution would continue on account of Him (Mat 5:10-12).  We have seen that the presence of Christ provokes persecution now just as it did when Christ walked the streets of Jerusalem (and was eventually nailed to a cross). What we shall consider further in this article is what the presence of Christ means.

Preaching persecution Christ KingdomAt minimum, the presence of Christ means that Christ is present with His people in the fullness of His identity. He is not present as we want Him to be. He is present as the true person He is. Christ exists as the Son of God without reference to our preferences. He is who He is. He will not be someone He is not.

Returning to Matthew, we see that Christ is present in the gospel as Himself—namely, as the king of heaven and earth. In preparing their readers for studying Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, well-respected New Testament Scholars Davies and Allison explain it this way:

   Before Jesus utters his commands, the reader has been informed—by OT prophecy, by John the Baptist, by God, and by the devil—who he is: the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God . . . .  This Jesus, therefore, by virtue of his identity, must speak with authority and make sovereign demands.  The obligation to obey the commands of Mt 5-7 is grounded in Christology, in the person of Jesus.  Matthew sets up his gospel so that one may first recognize Jesus’ unique status and then heed his commandments.[1]

Jesus is King of heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18-20). So, when we say that Jesus is present in the church, we say that the sovereign Jesus is present with claims of kingdom authority and demands for obedience.

The Gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus saying that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. No one overrules Jesus Christ. And, in fact, Jesus gives His followers the commission to make disciples of all peoples, and part of the disciple-making process is teaching people to obey everything Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). Such authority means that Jesus is king.

True to being a king in the God-intended sense (see Deuteronomy 17), Jesus established the righteousness of God on earth. Jesus the King still demands all men everywhere uphold the righteousness of God.  So, where Jesus is present, there is also a demand to uphold the righteousness of God. It isn’t simply a demand to obey; it is a demand to obey which is backed with authority from God.

Indeed, this startling dynamic is the thing which surprised people in Jesus’s day. At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, the people were amazed that Jesus spoke with such authority, rather than speaking as merely “a good teacher” (Matthew 7:28-30).

The presence of Jesus is the presence of a sovereign king making sovereign demands. His is not the presence of merely a good moral teacher. When preachers preach Christ, they present before their hearers a king making sovereign demands with implications for eternity. The stakes could not be higher, and the claims could not be greater.

The point is that Christ has come as a king establishing the righteousness of God. There is no other Christ. Such a Christ is offensive to fleshly indulgence. He sounds restrictive, audacious, and even oppressive. His claims of eternal reward or damnation—all or nothing depending on relation to Him—are simply unbearable apart from faith. On occasion, the weight of the matter will so overwhelm the unbeliever that he will seek to silence the man or woman who carries the message. That is preaching and persecution simply explained.


 

[1]Davies and Allison, Matthew: A Shorter Commentary, 64.

My First Response to ETS


My takeaway from the 62nd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta, GA, is that N.T. Wright is at once the most winsome, witty, and incorrigible academic I have yet seen.  His extraordinary intellect and persuasive abilities cause him to be a formidable foe indeed for any who wish to counter his positions on the teaching of Paul.  Though Dr. Schreiner and Dr. Thielman gave adequate defenses of their own expositions of the writings of Paul, they seemed somehow inadequate to the task of taking on the likes of N. T. Wright.

 

Professor Wright seemed to me to speak from a loftier perch than either of the other plenary panelists.  Theirs was an upward lurch to convince or perchance persuade Professor Wright to reconsider inferences pertaining to various exegetical insights in the Greek of Romans 1, 3, and 10, while his was a slightly bemused rejection of their ill-fated attempts—with the notable exception of Professor Wright’s acknowledgement that we are never justified “on the basis of” works.  Notable indeed!

 

I am not meaning to imply that N. T. Wright actually held the higher ground—either by virtue of superior intellect or by the substance of his Pauline perspective.  Rather, what I am saying is that N. T. Wright held the higher ground by virtue of his ability to articulate his position in relation to its overarching metanarrative.  Drs. Schreiner and Thielman offered adequate defenses of particular exegetical points related to their translations of the writings of Paul.  However, they did not engage Dr. Wright at the level of his metanarrative.  It seems to me that N. T. Wright is not actually quibbling about what the text says (although he constantly repeats that chorus).  Rather, he is aiming at a wholesale re-writing of the Pauline narrative in a decidedly less soteriological direction.  Whether this is merely a matter of emphasis or not, I do not know, but, given the arrogant manner in which he simply discarded some of critics—telling them to “Get a life”—I would guess that his aim is toward something more than mere emphasis.

 

One of the critics being told to “Get a life” by Dr. Wright was Mark Seifrid of Southern Seminary.  Far from being a “cut and paste blog-poster” critic, Dr. Seifrid is well-informed in the matter of Pauline perspective.  He began writing on new perspective issues more than two decades ago, including the time of completing his dissertation at Princeton on this very subject.  Having presented books, articles, lectures, and chapters on the subject throughout the last two decades, Dr. Seifrid is more than capable of articulating a defense of a more traditional reading of Paul.  Surely, his decades of faithful labor cannot be so readily dismissed, as though Wright is simply flicking aside a nuisance from the sleeve of his expensive theological suit.

 

More to the point, I think in one way Dr. Seifrid may have been the best suited to engage Professor Wright, although Professor Wright’s barbs against Seifrid would indicate that such an encounter is unlikely.  Still, at the level of narrative, Dr. Seifrid appears particularly well-suited to encounter N. T. Wright.  Here is what I mean.

 

It is possible that Professor Wright conceded an important theological point at ETS, namely, that final justification is not on the basis of works.  Whereas his earlier writings indicated that the final verdict is declared by God on the basis of a lifetime of faithfulness (or some such language), N. T. Wright now affirms—at least as of Friday at ETS—that his intention all along has been to say “according to” and not “on the basis of.”  This is fine as far as the particular phrasing goes.

 

However, engaging Dr. Wright on the particular inferences of the Greek text or on particular nuances of the theological language he uses is not in itself adequate.  As Dr. Seifrid showed in his paper following Dr. Wright’s plenary session and panel discussion, N. T. Wright still needs to answer a great many questions at the level of his narrative.  It is his overall narrative that is problematic, not simply his translation of texts related to righteousness.

 

In his overall narrative, N. T. Wright clearly resets the narrative of the people of God on an ecclesiogical rather than a soteriological trajectory.  That line of trajectory leads, as Seifrid points out, to the very important question of whether final justification for the people of God consists in something more than (or in addition to) a divine declaration grounded solely on Christ.  Seifrid cites numerous entries from Wright’s Justification in which it appears that Wright is asserting that between our initial justification and our final justification, there is a work in which the Spirit makes us pleasing to God so that we can stand at the final judgment.  As Seifrid points out, this sounds more like Trent than ETS.

[Seifrid refers the Reader to Justification 144, 149, 156, 182-93, 226, 239.  One can find Seifrid’s article, “(W)right with God?: A Response to N. T. Wright’s Vision of Justification I: Atonement and Justification in Biblical Perspective,” MWJT 8 (2010) 1-38.]

 

In other words, the problem which Wright brings to the fore is more than a biblical or exegetical one; it is a theological one.  It may not be so much the case that Wright’s preaching is wrong in general.  It is his perspective that is wrong.  Whether his perspective is new or not is irrelevant if it is wrong.  Contrary to Professor Wright, the fundamental crisis Paul engages is not how one becomes a member of Israel, but how one might be saved.  Thus, the fundamental point which must always be engaged with Professor Wright on the matter of justification is the very point made by the Philippian jailer, when, in a moment of existential crisis, he cried out to Paul, “How can I be saved?”

Christian Persecution


There is an occasion of persecution against Christians prevalent in the news right now in the U. K.  The case of Dale McAlpine in Great Britain is getting a lot of press (as it should).  The case is clearly one of persecution.  Mr. McAlpine was neither abusive nor offensive in his actions.  The offense clearly erupted from the content of his speech, namely, the Word of God.  McAlpine was not preaching against homosexuality.  He was speaking against drunkenness from 1 Corinthians 6:9.  His only mention of homosexuality came after being questioned by a private individual.  He responded to the question of the individual, and, for that, he was arrested.  Apparently, his offense was that he called homosexuality a sin in a private conversation with an individual who asked him about it.

I know that this case represents a loss of religious freedom in the U.K.  It is strange how imams there have the freedom to incite real violence against innocent Englanders under the free speech laws; yet, in this case, a man cannot answer a question about his beliefs regarding homosexuality.  Obviously, free speech is absent in England in any meaningful sense.

More than the loss of speech or religious liberty, however, this case is clearly one of persecution.  It separates the darkness from the light.  It was offensive to those outside of the truth not because it was presented in an offensive manner (such as rude signs during a funeral procession), but, rather, it was offensive simply because it displayed the righteousness of God.  God, of course, has the right to order human sexuality for our good.  We may not like it.  We may not agree with it.  We may choose to disobey it.  Nevertheless, God–as creator and sustainer of all things–has the right to order sexuality.  Pointing this out to others–even if done gently–is offensive.  In fact, we are all offended by the gospel because the gospel has a way of speaking to us about a standard of righteousness we have failed to meet.  (Of course, the great good news is Christ offers righteousness to us).

7 Pounds


The newest movie by Will Smith, 7 Pounds, not unlike I Am Legend, deals substantively with the human dilemma.  Specifically, Smith portrays a man who has unexpectedly come face with face with the frailty of the human condition.  Death comes suddenly, and he is unprepared for its arrival.

As a result, Smith (not his name in the movie, of course), devises a scheme whereby death might somehow be defeated.  In the unraveling of his plan, Smith becomes something of a Christ figure, using death to extend life.  Without giving too much of the movie away, I want to offer four key observations from the movie.

First, Smith clearly becomes a Christ-like figure.  In the movie, Smith plays a character who is willing to sacrifice for the well-being of others.  Indeed, the sacrifice motif plays itself out throughout the movie as an integral part of the substance of his character.  The movie intends for Smith’s character to be one who sacrifices.  Ultimately, the Christian will see sacrifice in its quintessential display through Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for many.

Second, and again like Christ, Smith acts on behalf of a certain group of individuals who most assuredly will be helped by him.  Beyond mere sacrifice, Smith—in acting this way—demonstrates great love.  He is willing to lose so that others gain—but not everyone gains.  The objects of his affections are particular.

Third, and in this instance not like Christ, Smith plays a figure whose righteousness is self-imposed.  Never in the movie is there a hint that righteousness is alien to the main character.  Smith plays a character who—though he has been devastated by unexpected death—is still perfectly capable of determining the righteousness of others and making determinations about their worthiness to receive (or not to receive) the blessing he will offer.  One may leave this movie with the mistaken view that righteousness consists of not getting angry or being overly selfish.  Giving and being considerate of others is apparently righteousness enough.  (There is one thing that is absolutely forbidden, but I will not mention it here because it isn’t revealed until the end of the movie).  The main point to make on righteousness is that it appears to reside in the character himself.  Thus, there are judgments made against others, but the title character himself is not judged, even though he might be guilty of fornication, forgery, impersonation, theft, espionage, and, potentially, self-murder. 

Finally, and again unlike Christ, Smith plays a character who is willing to sacrifice only on the condition of perceived righteousness.  In this way, I believe, Smith’s character is the most unlike Christ.  Though I found the movie to be a well-acted, very worthwhile production, I could not help at the end of it to quote Romans 5: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Though I appreciated the thoughtful plot of 7 Pounds, I left the movie thanking God for the gospel of Jesus Christ.