Back to Basics, Part 4

Continued from Back to Basics, Part 3

(See end note)
(See end note)

Following Jesus is all or nothing. He tells us to follow his commands – all of them, not just the few we feel comfortable following.

“My experience of many Christians is that we have it backwards. We want the power to point out sin; we want the credit and glory for having saved them when it is not up to us.”

In every case I read in the Gospels, Jesus loved first (as he did for us), offered grace first, then gave outcasts and sinners (like us all) the space to recognize and acknowledge their own sins, come to him and allow him to transform their lives. We don’t give people that space; we don’t give them a chance to own their own fallenness. And changing behavior isn’t transformation; it’s a band-aid. Transformation changes hearts and minds.

As I listen in church, as I talk in person to fellow believers, as I read blogs across the Western World, my experience of many Christians is that we have it backwards. We want the power to point out sin to not only to individuals but entire groups of people. We want the credit and glory for having saved them when it is not up to us.

So, how do we follow the tasks to reconcile people to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-19), and how do we make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)?

Our job, through God’s love, is to open the door for people to reach out to Jesus and for him to hand them the opportunity for His Love and Grace. That is when Transformation occurs. That is when the “Aha” moments happen. That is when the thirst for discipleship transpires.

When we attempt to argue or accuse people into Christ, all we do is cause them to be offended, to turn their backs on God. That isn’t what we want and it certainly isn’t what God wants. If our mission is to reconcile everyone to God and what we’ve been doing isn’t working, we must change our methods.

“The elder son…cannot see the difference between restorative justice and punitive justice. And restorative justice is the Good News.”

In the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus begins with, “A man had two sons.” Even though many of our Bibles call it the Parable of the Lost or Prodigal Son, it is really The Parable of the Lost Sons. This parable is not simply about the younger son who was lost to sin.

It is also about the elder son who stood to inherit twice what his younger brother took as his inheritance. The elder brother was lost to legalism, the son who is so focused on the sin of his brother his anger will not allow him to offer grace or accept the double treasure of his Father’s grace and love which has always been there for him. He cannot see the difference between restorative justice and punitive justice. And restorative justice is the Good News.

As we love unconditionally, it doesn’t mean we condone sin, just as forgiveness doesn’t mean we accept bad behavior. But trying to teach someone about acceptable behavior before you accept and love who they are regardless of their behavior will fall upon deaf ears. It will erect a wall that will never allow them to feel safe enough to let down their guard.

Loving unconditionally means we communicate without disgracing or treating people without dignity. It means we create a safe space for them to discover the love, mercy and grace of God. It means we allow them to choose, through that saving grace, to repent in their own time because God’s love and His Spirit moves them to do so. It means we don’t stand in their way or erect barriers of any kind, otherwise we become stumbling blocks.

The bottom line is this: we can either continue pushing ahead, attempting to teach through condemnation and accusation, or we can build authentic trust and relationships through the wisdom and patience of the Holy Spirit, through the compassion of Jesus, and through the love and grace of our Father.

 

The Tree of Life, a nearly 10-foot tall sculpture, was created by four Mozambican artists: Cristovao Canhavato (Kester), Hilario Nhatugueja, Fiel dos Santos and Adelino Serafim Maté. The sculpture was made entirely from weapons that were the remains of the 17-year civil war that killed one million people and only ended when the Soviet Union collapsed and funding ended. This piece was part of the Transforming Arms Into Tools project which employs former child soldiers to dismantle weapons, which has dismantled more than 600,000 weapons in nine years.

Metamorphosis, Part 1

The New Promise

caterpillar

I generally read a couple of devotionals each morning, and turn to my Bible – the Living Word – to study quoted verses in context. I was captivated after reading Chapter Three in the Second Letter to the Corinthians because I’ve read this letter many times; yet upon this reading this particular chapter came alive to me.

So many new thoughts entered my heart as the words jumped out from the page that it’s going to take two posts to share them with you. I hope you’ll indulge me, because there are some amazing ideas awaiting you tomorrow!

“The ministry that brought death was inscribed on stone. Yet, it came with such glory that the people of Israel couldn’t look at Moses’ face. His face was shining with glory, even though that glory was already fading. Won’t the ministry that brings the Spirit have even more glory?

“If the old ministry, which brings condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry which makes us right with God? In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. If that former ministry faded away despite its glory, how much more does the new ministry which remains forever?

“Since we have confidence in the new promise, we speak very boldly. We are not like Moses. He kept covering his face with a veil so the people of Israel, who were fearful of it, did not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-13, emphasis mine)

©butterflysite.com
©butterflysite.com

We are born in God’s image: loving, trusting, showing His light. As we grow and are exposed to circumstances, this light dims and, in some cases, is shut down altogether. We live our lives without fully realizing the gift we have in Christ. We live by fear and the Old Law, not yet allowing the fullness of the Spirit to work in us. We have not “made straight the way of the Lord.” God’s light is shining on us, but not in us.

 

John the Baptist was the last Old Covenant prophet who transitioned us from the Old to the New Covenant. We have not glided with the transition fully into the New Covenant.

During Old Covenant times, when the only people who had the Spirit were the prophets, God gave Laws for people to follow so they were aware of sin, they knew the boundaries, they learned not to harm each other and they understood how to take care of each other so no one was ever in need. But as a few became educated and studied the Law, they added to it and massaged it and twisted it here and there so eventually the application of the Law became abusive, and came to benefit the educated and wealthy.

When Jesus came, he addressed the abuses of the Old Law when he spoke to the leaders of religious law. He wanted them to get back to the original intent of the law, which was supposed to bring people together in community. Upon his arrival the Old Law was fulfilled; there was no more need for a law that punishes or condemns. Jesus came to take all our wrongdoing upon himself, destroy them for all time, and bring us back, through God’s love and grace, into a right relationship with our Father.

Tomorrow: Part 2 – Shedding the Old