Monday, June 30, 2014

Christians Behaving Badly

Christians behaving badly is bad business.  If only it were an occasional thing.  The greater problem is that the more we behave badly the more we become something we ought not to be.

It is so easy to be other than we ought to be.  Have you noticed that?  And once we become other than we should have been, it is so easy—and so necessary—to find a way to justify where and why we went wrong. 

As Alexander Pope said, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”  We can’t help it!  The Apostle Paul admitted as such: “. . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .” (Romans 3:23 NRSV).  Thank you, Mr. Pope and Apostle Paul.  We do what we ought not to do and become what we ought not to become because we are human beings who can’t help that we are sinners.  It’s not our fault!  It’s God’s fault. 

We are caught in a never-ending circle of grace.  We sin; God forgives; and the circle is complete.  The more we sin, the more God can and must forgive.  Isn’t it wonderful?  We are merely being who we are, and God is being whom God is, and all is right with the world.  Grace abounds.  Sin more and more grace is dispensed.  Hallelujah and Amen! 

Thus endeth the lesson.  Amen.

Well, there is one tiny other matter.  Paul does say that we all sin.  It is, as Mr. Pope suggested, human nature to err.  Paul, however, had more to say; and Mr. Pope may well have meant more than we take from this oft-quoted line.

Paul states that sin has dominion over us only because we submit ourselves to sin.  We let sin have its way with us.  The solution is to change who has dominion—who rules us.  “Present yourselves to God . . . and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:13-14 NRSV).  Granted, this is no easy task, but there are great incentives.

To continually follow the way of sin is to court death—death greater than the cessation of life.  The death that ensues from sin is Death with a capital “D.”  On the other hand, to present ourselves to God is to open the door to something greater than ourselves.  It is to open the door to grace—grace that includes forgiveness for our sins but goes beyond.  The grace God offers us is grace that is creative and cleansing. 

God’s grace ushers us through a door labeled “sanctification.”  Sanctification is God’s way of making us into who we were meant to be—children of God, created in God’s image.  Sanctification is not an instantaneous change.  We’re not one thing on one side of the door and other on the other side.  On the other side of the door lies a new way—God’s way as revealed in Jesus.  Passing through the door, we embark on a new journey; and along that journey, we experience the saving grace of God.  We experience sanctification—the gradual process by which we become what God declares us to be, children of God.

Who we are and what we become is largely determined by our choice as to what or who has dominion over our living.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Prayer on the Day of Pentecost

Almost everyone I know claims to know Jesus. 

Not all who claim to know him also claim to follow him. 

What I’m beginning to wonder is how many who claim to follow him really know him?

In Jesus’ day, some who best understood him chose not to follow him.  They chose not to follow him because they knew that doing so would change them and their way of living; and having that change was not to their liking.

Some who did follow him didn’t really know him.  When some of those discovered who he really was, they went their own way.  Others followed until they began to understand; and having understood, they followed—many unto death.

Not all who seem to understand Jesus and to follow him seem happy about it.  In fact, some of them seem to be the least happy people around.

Some who seem to understand Jesus and to follow him seem to be among the happiest and most content people I know.  In many cases this is true even though their life circumstances lead me to expect them to be anything but happy and content.

What accounts the variety of ways in which people respond to Jesus?

Perhaps the happiest and the most content among us are those who heard the invitation: “Let everyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”  Those who drink are drinking in the Spirit of God; and out of them, “will flow rivers of living water.”  The “water” that flows out is the same “water” that flows in.  It is the Spirit of God.

I come . . . I come, O Lord.  Fill me with your Spirit . . . quench the burning thirst of my soul.  Fill me, that from me the rivers of your living Spirit may flow and refresh others.  Amen.