Saturday, May 23, 2009

Words of Law or Gospel?

If you've seen Everybody Loves Raymond or any number of movies with a stereotypical Jewish (or Polish or Greek or Italian) mother, you know the jokes about how mothers can heap guilt onto a kid. Spoken with many a sigh and a pained look on the face -- "Of course, you can go to the beach with your friends on my birthday. Don't mind me. I'm just your mother. I spent 37 hours in labor bringing you into the world. I changed your diapers and sacrificed myself for you in countless ways. It's not important to me that you spend a few hours with me on my birthday. I live to make you happy. And if being with your friends is what makes you happy, then you have my blessing to go to the beach with your friends while you ignore your mother. I just want you to be happy!"

I'm beginning to see that some pastors and many of our Christian friends are capable of the same thing.

Look at the bald words: "Trust Me." With tone of voice and facial expression, some pastors can make those words into a law or demand that condemns us because we don't "do" the trusting well enough. But those words can also be seen as a comfort: "I have poured out my life for you. I want only the best for you. You can trust Me. I have saved you, and I love you. I forgive you and will do everything to bring you into the safety of heaven with Me. It's okay; I've got it all under control; you can trust Me."

Some Christians will talk about vocation by saying that we are free in the Gospel to do whatever we want. Then they will say, "So, what do you want to do?" with a tone of voice that implies there really is no freedom. Those who are truly captivated by the Gospel will, on the other hand, say the same words but somehow suggest --with no manipulation, no arm-twisting, no scolding-- that we truly are free. This freedom and forgiveness creates in us a new heart which actually does desire to do what's right ... without compulsion.

Same thing can happen with "Go and sin no more" or "Be fruitful and multiply" or "Follow Me" or "Love one another" or any number of other words from God.

It is amazing how we can take a word from our Savior, a word that shows His mercy and His commitment to us, a word which shows Him to be gentle and wooing and kind, and somehow manage to turn those words into manipulation that we might expect from a sinful person that uses a pretense of self-sacrifice as a tool to get what he wants.

Does this mean there should be no law preached? Of course not. Christians need the law until they've "assumed room temperature." What I am speaking about is the sinful nature's propensity to twist even sweet words of Gospel into Law.

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