Do you ever think that this faith we profess is the strangest? I sometimes do. How else do you explain such an unfailing love as the one we get from the King of Kings? Howe then do you explain how Holy the Lord is and yet chooses to love us. How do you explain that He chases after us despite and inspite of who we are? Strange is probably the word, yet in that strangeness is the best gift ever to mankind, a salvation by grace through faith alone; not earned, not deserved but freely given.
Yet I find this is the crack of the struggle of many of us. We are a people attuned to working hard for stuff; I work hard at work and earn a promotion. I am a good tidy child and I earn a well done from my parents. I study hard at school and I earn an A+.
Looking for A+
In the process, some of us seem to have changed the message of the gospel to ‘do good, and you will be saved’ or ‘work hard and you will earn the crown of salvation’. We have made Christianity an exclusive club of the nice peoples of this world, if you cannot keep up with good deeds, this ain’t a club for you.
I will tell you the problem with this gospel other than the obvious one that it is not the gospel, the problem is if you are like me, not big on rules; you will rebel at some point against the rules, they begin to feel tiresome, unattainable but most of all the lack of freedom just becomes too much to bear. What follows is a heart and mind that just throws its hands and says ‘I will not do this niceness thing anymore, too much hard work’. This is said to be one of the leading reasons for many people of my generation, we generation Y, are rebelling from the church.
But there is a second problem with this gospel, this is what is discussed in this blog post ‘should Christians drink alcohol’, this gospel creates a self-sufficiency mindset for many. You see the opposite of the generation Y in me is a stickler of rules, one whose greatest joy is working hard at ‘being good’ and making it; one who thrives at attaining the rules, a pat in the back for a job well done. This person will look down on the rest of the strugglers. They will imagine that because they are saved they are better than the rest of the world. They will secretly boast of their goodness. I say secretly because I have also been this person at some point.
A while back I went to this place to buy movies and there is a pub next to it. The pub was pretty packed for an early afternoon. I remember my holier than thou mind coming through and I thought the way the people in that pub are lost, hopeless unlike me who has it all figured out. For a few minutes pride welled in head and heart, I thought oh good job galfriend, you know better than to be in this pub drunk at this hour right? Then I remembered ‘but for Grace’, you bet I’d be more lost. But that’s the problem of the gospel of being nice, it is about self, self and self.
The other thing this gospel does is it creates many brothers to the prodigal son. The people who are nice but miss to enjoy the gift. The people who will be working for the Lord and miss to know the Father. The people who when they see the rebellious brother getting the party while they have been slaving away, they cannot help but resent this brother leave alone the Father. The people who forget but for Grace they’d be this brother.
Thee parable of workers in the vineyard brings this home very well. This parable is a sobering one for the many who have prescribed to the nice gospel coz many will have a ‘I get what I deserve mindset’.
However, here was Jesus saying a dude who came to labor at 5pm, just when the day was about to end would get rewarded the same pay as the nice me who’d been out laboring from 8am. Where is the justice in that? I deserve a higher wage dear Lord? But Jesus was in effect saying, really? Are you sure you want to get what you deserve? Phillip Yancey puts it very well in his book, what’s so amazing about grace, “None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirements for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell.”
The other day I watched a series ‘preacher’s daughters’ and I just could not go too far with it. It seems so rule based. It seemed to be about parenting by telling the kids about what not to do. It was driven by hammering how evil sex before marriage is, or how drinking is such an evil thing. I do not fight with either, but any gospel that does not start with God’s love is not something I want in on. In the end it shows a very rebellious kids, kids who are hell bent to do the exact reverse of the cocoons they’ve been put in require. I blame them not.
You see the thing I am convinced is this, one way or another like Paul we can say ‘the things I ought to do I don’t do and the things I ought to do I don’t… it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.. Truth be told, even on my ‘holiest’ days this battle is very real, I so often will find myself doing the things I know I shouldn’t, and not doing the things I know I should. So if I am loved by God for the days I do what I ought to I promise you I am in trouble.
My conviction is this; the gospel is this, “THAT WHILE I WAS A SINNER CHRIST DIED FOR ME”. This is the gospel, that we are loved not because we deserve to, but because He just does love us. For God so loved the world…..
The power in this love
What amount of love this? Strange perhaps. Yet it is that love that brings me to His feet and says Lord I surrender to you, take my sinful nature, make me over, nothing good lives in me, Holy Spirit lead. It is seeing this amount of love that makes me love this Lord. It is knowing I am such a Gomer yet He loves me. What amount of love is this?
One of my all time favorite stories in the bible is Gomer and Hosea, a story that so is my love story with Christ. Gomer was a prostitute. Yep, prostitute. Hosea on the other hand was a pure man. But God asks Hosea to marry this prostitute, and so Hosea falls in love with Gomer. And boy did he chase her. He takes her to wilderness, woos her. He runs after her. She does not get it. She’s used to those who want to use her body. She does not get why this beautiful man is after her. She even goes back to the dark world she knows even after all this chasing. Yet, for me the most amazing this is, Hosea never gives up on her. Oh he’s disappointed time and time again, but this is the love of his life so he keeps on till Gomer is fully his. What amount of love is this?
That’s the thing that takes me back to Christ. He has chased me so often, sometimes in such dark places I would give up on self. Yet He has unsparingly surrounded me with love. Sometimes I don’t get it, but I know I am loved. Somehow in all these He tells me, I did not come for those without issues….i came for your kind. Somehow He tells me those who are forgiven much love much.
Are you running? He’s saying come home. Have you been cheating on Him? He’s sad, but His hands are still wide open and He’s saying come home. Have you been having an affair with a married man and wondering can God ever ever love a person like me, a person who’s destroyed a marriage. Guess what He says come. Have you been sleeping with your boyfriend and every week you say I will stop but well…. Have you aborted a child and you are thinking He can’t look at me? Have you been baby daddy too many and you’re thinking some of us are gone cases? He still says COME.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
I end where I started, this faith is strange. Yet it is the reason for who I am. I am loved. And because I am loved for love sake I become humble. Because i am loved I see through the eyes of one seeks to love in an equal measure. Because I am loved I pray the Spirit of God to help not to judge any other. Because i am loved i yearn to live for Him, to obey His commands. Because i am loved i seek to know this Lord, to know this love. Because i am loved i lift my hands in absolute abandon.