Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Gospel

tmnt-2011-a-lA story as old as time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Alright, so maybe the turtles themselves only date back to the late 80’s, a time when shoulder pads, jelly shoes, wallet chains were all the rage.  It’s not too hard to see how a story based on genetically mutated reptiles who fought crime with martial arts that were taught to them by a giant rat could catch on during this time period.  But at its core, the story of the Ninja Turtles is a story as old as time.  Four brothers who do not fit in with the world around them, who feel destined for greatness, only to eventually face the truth that their existence is the result of a mere accident.

Splinter in a scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja ...

Splinter in a scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The origins of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles varies in each incarnation of the series, but it stays similar; a certain chemical ooze gets spilled or accidentally spayed onto four baby turtles.  This “ooze” not only allows them to grow and resemble humanoid creatures, but also greatly heightens their intelligence and cognitive abilities.   They are then raised by a Rat (or Japanese martial artist turned rat, depending on the incarnation) who then teaches them the art of ninjitsu (obviously).  The four brothers are then raised in the sewers of New York City, going through adolescence and puberty while fighting petty crime in the city.

We all experience at least two thoughts during our teenage years, its universal.  1) We are unique, individual snowflakes who are unlike and completely individual from the masses around us, nobody really understands us.  2) We are destined for greatness and nothing can stop us.  Of course, neither of these two thoughts are really true.

Yes we are all individuals and slightly unique, but for the most part, humans are all basically the same.  We are all slaves to our own sin nature, and at the end of the day, everything we do serves ourselves.  Even our “good deeds” are an extension of our selfishness.  Look throughout history and see how similar we currently are to the ancient Romans and Greeks.  We are all sinful humans who, at our core, strive only to satisfy ourselves.  This is one aspect that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually hits on quite well.  The turtles are (for the most part) completely different individual from the rest of society.  And what is the thing that they strive for the most?  To be like everyone else and just be able to blend in.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second universal teenage thought is that we are destined for greatness.  We put here by some cosmic force to accomplish something.  However, as the turtles learn, this is simply not the case.  Their entire existence is the result of a mere accident.  They have no great spiritual significance or destiny.  If a little boy hadn’t tripped and lost his pet turtles down a drain, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would not have even existed.  This is contrasted with our reality, where we have been uniquely created by the almighty God and have a distinct purpose and calling for our lives.  It may be something simple as suffering for the sake of Christ, or loving others as Christ loved us and spreading the Gospel through those means.  We have a great meaning in our lives, and we will accomplish it for the glory of God.

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One other thing I would like to touch on in regards to Ninja Turtles and The Gospel is the turtles selfless protection they give to the people of New York.  The turtles are mocked, ridiculed, and persecuted by the people they are trying to save, nobody would blame them if stayed in the sewers and showed no emotion to the people who dwell among the streets.  But they spend their nights saving those who hate them and are scared of them.  They receive little to no recognition, and are often hunted by those who they help.  This is a great picture of what it means to spread the gospel of Christ through persecution.  Our love of people should empower us to go forth and spread the gospel, even if we are mocked, ridiculed or persecuted.  I pray that God gives me a heart similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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God Hates Sinners

God hates the sin but loves the sinner. 

The above statement has been tossed around for the past 70 odd some years and many believe it to be holy and inspired scripture that is found in the bible, this however is completely and utterly false.  The entire notion of “hate the sin and love the sinner” is a quote from the Hindu, Gandhi.  A man to our current knowledge never repented from his sins and accepted Christ as his savior and lord.  So why is it that we accept his words on the same level as the holy and inspired word of God?  Well simply put, it feels good.  Yet nowhere in scripture does it teach that God only hates the sin but loves the sinner regardless.  Quite the opposite in fact, scripture quite plainly teaches that God hates sin along with those who do sin (aka the sinner).  Throughout church history this is what has been taught, it is only recently that we have lost this teaching.  Preaching the biblical truth that God hates sinners is not a very good way to create a mega-church.

Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,”

Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”

Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”

Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”

Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”

These five old testament scriptures show us quite clearly that God hates those who do evil, not just the evil itself but actually those who do evil.  Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms Gods wrath is mentioned.  We see again in Exodus 32:9-10 that Gods holy wrath burns hot against Israel and he wants to consume them.  Doesn’t exactly sound like the non-hating God we have been conditioned to believe in and worship.  In Isaiah 53:4-6, we see the punishment that we all deserve and the punishment we can only escape if we accept Christ as the propitiation for our sins.

We like to believe that the God of the old testament is an angry and vengeful God and the God of the new testament is a merciful and loving God.  Our God does not change, he is the same in the old testament as he is in the new testament.  In John 3 we see a verse most often cited as showing Gods love (John 3:16) but there is another verse that is often neglected, John 3:36.  It shows us that unless we are under Christ we are still subject to Gods wrath as children in Adam.  In Romans 12:9 we are commanded to love what is good and abhor what is evil.  God hate sin, but he does not punish sin, he punishes the sinner.  Ephesians says we are born spiritually dead, we are so sinful that we are completely depraved and cannot reach God ourselves until Christ steps in for us.  Our entire nature is sinful, our very core is sin.  And it isn’t until we are regenerated by the holy spirit that we are no longer of a sinful nature.

Another great passage to illustrate this point is Romans 9: 11-13, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written,”Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”.  Again, God clearly states that he hates Esau.  He doesn’t say “I hate what Esau will do”, in fact Paul makes it clear that it has nothing to do with what either of them will do.  God hates Esau because he is and always will be a unrepentant sinner, and as such he is a child of wrath (Eph 2:3).

In 1 John 4, it says that God is love.. which is absolutely true.  and it is because God is love that he MUST hate.  If you love babies, you will hate abortion.  If you love Jews, you will hate the holocaust.  If you love African Americans you will hate slavery.  God loves what is good and for all that conforms to his moral character, so he hates all that which is evil and does not conform to his moral character (aka the sinner).  Gods hatred is not manifested against the sin, it’s manifested against the sinner, like John 3:38 says… Gods wrath remains on the unbeliever.  It is also important to remember that God’s wrath is not something apart from God, it’s not something that God sends out to get bad people.  God’s wrath is not apart from God, it IS God.  Gods wrath is so fierce that in Revelation we are told that men will call out for the rocks to fall on them to hide them from his wrath (Rev 6:16).  We do not like to talk about it, but when Christ died on the cross to save us… he did not save us from sin and he did not save us from ourselves.  God saved us from himself!  We are taught that Heaven is heaven because God is there and hell is hell because God is not there.  But on the contrary, Hell is where Gods wrath and justice is poured out onto evil men for all of eternity.  Hell is not full of people whom God loves.  Gods love is not what was poured out onto Christ at the cross.

So at this point we must wonder how do we reconcile Gods love for us (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:7 – 8:16) with his hatred for sinners?  The answer is, as always, the cross!  The cross is where we can most clearly see Gods hatred for sinners being poured out onto Christ, as well as his love being shown through in that he took the cross for us and our iniquities.  We will never fully understand the amount of love it took for Christ to take up the cross if we refuse to acknowledge how much hatred God has for the sinner.  Does God hate? Yes. Does God love? Yes. This is not a contradiction. This is simply the truth.  As always, the answer can be found at the cross.

3 Hours

Jesus torn like He’s on the corner with crack rock with porn on His laptop

It’s where we see Your holiness- at the cross
We see that You’re controlling this- at the cross
We see how You feel about sin- at the cross
Your unfathomable love for men- at the cross
It’s where we see Your sovereignty- at the cross
We see our idolatry- at the cross
We know that there’s a judgment day- from the cross
May we never take our eyes away- from the cross

But know this: the main thing the cross demonstrated is the glory and the holiness of God vindicated.  So forever will I tell, in three hours, Christ suffered more than any sinner ever will in hell.