Thursday, January 30, 2014

What God has Done

A rather intriguing thing happened in my life and in the life of this blog this past week.

First, my blog post 10 Things You Can't Say or Do or Believe or Whatever While Following Jesus was picked up by the ELCA website Living Lutheran.  Then, the blog post from Living Lutheran was picked up by the ELCA Facebook page.  Then, conversation about my post ensued with both positive and negative comments, including some who know the author of the post I cited in my original article.  Even the author of the original article put his two cents worth in about my blog post.  Two intriguing things stood out:

1. If Christianity isn't about what we are supposed to do, why did Jesus spend so much time talking about how we are supposed to interact with our neighbor?

2. If Christianity isn't about what we are supposed to do, why is there such a thing as discipleship?*

When I read some of the comments, I think I got a glimpse of what that German monk had to deal with so long ago when he kicked off the Reformation.  Never mind that I ended my original piece with the comment:

Then ponder how you may be called to share that love with others--without lists but instead with a Leader you are called to imitate. 

Grace doesn't mean you aren't called to do things.  Not in the least.  And I guess the folks wondering about discipleship missed that part about imitating the Leader, but I think that's a bit beside the point.

Look.  I stand by what I say.  Christianity isn't about what we do.  It's about what God has done.

I mean, first of all, Christianity isn't simply an ethical path.  Jesus wasn't some kind of mystical sage full of wisdom.  Nearly all of His teachings are found in the Old Testament.  Yours truly is absolutely astounded when I hear folks say, "We don't follow the Old Testament law anymore."

Really?  So, you mean the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself is something you don't follow anymore?

"That's different.  Jesus told His followers to do that."

You mean, Jesus quoted the Old Testament in regards to that.  Check Leviticus 19:18 out.

In fact, it could be argued that Jesus is speaking about the Natural Law here.  This particular teaching is found in just about EVERY code of ethics around the world and is central to just about EVERY religion.  Jesus is saying nothing new-at all.  And if He is just one of many other types of teachers of morality; well, then there is really nothing special about Him.  That's just the facts.  So, yes, Jesus did talk about how we should live with one another, but there was nothing particularly special about that teaching when compared to other cultures and religions.  (Check C.S. Lewis' commentary about this in Mere Christianity.)

Secondly, if you think you are really a disciple of Jesus and you are gung ho about doing what Jesus says and you think you have the moral authority to tell everyone what it really means to follow Him correctly (by doing this and not doing that), well, then I first challenge you to accomplish that top 10 list I posted in my blog, but if that isn't good enough I'll only ask you to do one other thing.  It's a simple matter really, because Jesus actually said there was one thing we couldn't do and still be His disciple:

So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.  Luke 14:33

There are no exegetical gymnastics to get you out of that one.  This is indeed a direct translation of the koine Greek.  There are no textual variants.  You could argue that Jesus was simply talking to His immediate disciples, but what is to prevent anyone from saying that about ALL of Jesus' teachings?

IF CHRISTIANITY IS ABOUT WHAT YOU DO, YOU CANNOT BE A CHRISTIAN IF YOU HAVE POSSESSIONS at least according to what Jesus teaches--yeah, that same Jesus that teaches us an awful lot about how we are supposed to interact with God and with our neighbor.

Enter GRACE.  Christianity is about what God has done.

We know what the right thing to do is.

We can't do it.

God takes care of matters on the cross.

We try to accomplish whatever we can out of love--and love doesn't say, "YOU CAN'T DO THIS!!"

Love says, "I love you anyway.  I give you your inheritance anyway even though I am still alive.  I come running to you anyway when you return home.  I invite you to the party anyway even though you have shamed me.  And I will keep letting you go; I will keep running to you; I will keep inviting you even though you keep messing up.  I will rejoice when you do things according to my will, but I will not punish you because you cannot achieve perfection.  You are my child, and you will always be."

Yeah, that's what God has done and is doing.  Only that kind of love can change a person...

Only the love of God can change a person...

Nothing we do can.

*I am reframing the original comments and putting them into question form.  Believe me, some of the comments weren't as nice as the questions.  :-)

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