Monday, October 12, 2009

Payback or Freedom?

Can it be? A month ago was my last blog post? Where does the time go?
Lots has happened, but obviously not blog posting. Think I'll write some thoughts today since I'm off work for Columbus Day.

Yesterday at church we had the privilege of being guests in a different Flock than the one where we're members. (Some of my friends chuckle every time I speak of attending Flock on Sunday. That's our church's version of Sunday School. When teased about being members of a Flock, I respond with something like isn't that what sheep are, members of flocks? Anyway...)

Paul was the guest speaker and the absent leader had earlier told Paul he had been addressing how Christians are changed when becoming believers. That is one of Paul's favorite subjects, and he gave a great talk. There were some questions at the end, and it was a great time of meeting new people, of being in a nice home, and of getting to hear the greatest communicator share.

One of the questions that was asked of Paul was how does or did this new-covenant living vs old-covenant living affect your ministry. The reason the question was asked was explained that a pastor acquaintance who had developed some physical problems was convinced that this was God's payback for his teenage sins.

This reminded me of some of my friends who have what they would call "moral" sins in their past and anything bad that happens to them or theirs later is immediately thought of as God's payback.

Where did we get that notion?

I think we got it from the old covenant or many scriptures in the Old Testament. If you will or if my people will...then I will (God speaking). We live by, we hear preached, and we base our Christian beliefs and living on performance based teachings.

Things like if you have a daily quiet time, God will bless you with a "victorious" day. This type of thinking leads to the opposite that if you don't, for some reason, have a quiet time, then bad things will happen. How sad! Or, if you've done some bad things, you will pay for it the rest of your life with guilt and shame.

Where is the freedom that's promised in the new covenant, in the New Testament? "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Where is the living by the new laws that Christ gave? Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself and in doing that you will fulfill all the law. Doesn't that just smack of freedom and grace?

I hear comments like yesterday, and I long to "set people free" in the freedom that Christ bought and paid for in full. By accepting his offer of grace and love and freedom, we have changed lives set free to love others.

Isn't that the true Gospel?

Is that our main teaching to new Christians? Or, is it what they need to "do" in order to live out their new life in Christ? No wonder people are not being drawn to our message.
Just some thoughts.


Cathy_H said...

It seems to me the most difficult words for us to accept are "it is finished."

Something inside us wants to earn our salvation. After all, most of our cultural models are on earning. Study hard. Get an "A." Work hard. Get cash. (And the opposite is slacking.)

Other than Christ, there is no model for grace. Workers who put in 8 hours and workers who put in 2 get the same pay? We hate that. Like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, we want rewards based on our goodness. We have little use for prodigals. It is etched on our souls that sin has to be paid for. And we punish each other for the slightest infractions.

It is interesting to me that the Lord's prayer uses the phrase "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."

That sin equals debt--both to God and each other.

We have no model for forgiveness of debt. Just ask Visa.

Mary Burleson said...

Cathy, You always add so much to what I originally post. Thank you.

I like your statement, "That sin equals debt--both to God and each other." I want to make sure I understand what you are saying in that statement. Would you elaborate?

Thanks. MB

Bobby Brown said...

What we need is people who will give what I call, for lack of a better name, "a negative testimony." While teaching in John recently and reading the verse where Jesus says, "ask anything in my name and I will give it to you", one man replied, "I don't like that verse!" He went on to say that he was an assistant pastor in a church when his pastor ran off with his first wife. He later remarried and his second wife got cancer and he prayed over and over the prayer above and she died anyway. Both very "negative" but very honest testimonies. He said he wasn't living a perfect life at the time but by no means what we would call a bad life, just doing the best he could to live for Jesus and serve as a minister. I am sure our churches are full of such testimonies but no one has the honesty to give them. This idea of karma is simply not true. One may be living as close to Jesus as possible when all Hell breaks loose.

Cathy H said...

I've said the Lord's prayer for 40 years, but never really noticed the word debt before. Never thought of what that meant.

If when we sin...say lie to someone...then we owe them? Owing God I get, but owing each other? "As we forgive our debtors" is stunning.

Makes the phrase tetelesti (which your husband taught me was also a transactional term) even more powerful.

I'm not sure I'm being very articulate here...but it suddenly seems silly of us to demand payment of those who wrong us.

All the debts are paid...