lunes, 16 de junio de 2008

Compassion Rather than Sacrifice

I have joined a Facebook group called the "60 Day Challenge" with my three oldest children. It is a group of people challenged to read the New Testament in 60 days. To be honest, I have never done this before. I have read the whole Bible, different books at a time, but never from the beginning to the end, so this is a new challenge for me. This week was our first week and we were reading the book of Matthew of course. Once again I was struck by the references to hypocrisy. This time Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, and condemns their behaviour because they are imposing man made laws as a requirement for spirituality. As I reflect on my own life and the religious leaders of the day today I see the same type of hypocrisy again. As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, it seems as though we are presenting a works based gospel. It is not wrong to fast and pray, or give to the poor etc., but when I look at the context of what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7 when he quotes the old testament saying "learn what this means ' I desire compassion and not sacrifice' for I did not come to call the righteous but sinners', I see a God of love, a God that desires to save, not condemn. We are so quick to judge because of appearances and we are so quick to adjust our appearances for the judgement of others and yet we do not seem to give a second thought as to God's opinion. God does not care about what I wear (of course as long as I am modest as a woman), nor does he care if my friends are influential or if I live in the right neighborhood or if I have a certain job. What God cares about is my heart, my motivations, my passion, my priorities. Romans 12 reminds us to not conform ourselves to this world and it's thinking but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to have the mind of God, and see the world the way He does.

jueves, 5 de junio de 2008

Hypocrisy and the Gospel?

Ok, I have to admit, I have been chewing on this for several days. I have been reading in Galations and was struck by what Paul writes in chapter 2. Probably like you, I often think of hypocrisy on terms of not being who I expect others to be, but I realized after reading that it goes further than that. The gospel is: Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross, was buried and rose again on the third day. He paid the penalty for what we have done (and will do) and is offering us forgiveness and eternal life in heaven with Him. It is a free gift of salvation from condemnation, an eternity in hell. It cannot be earned but it is by God's grace, His unmeritted favor, that we can enjoy this free gift. We preach this gospel with words, but do we live this gospel with our lives? That is the question that has been hounding me for the past week. Often, I think, the gospel we portray with our lives is works based. We do, do, do and serve, serve, serve, which in itself, with the correct motivation of course, is not bad. But I'm afraid that many times, my motivation for doing or serving is "to stay on God's good side" or "to look good to others watching". I know God does not have a good side or a bad side but my actions and attitudes sometimes do not show that. In Galations Paul talks about Peter having stood "aloof" from the gentiles because they were not circumcized. I often compare myself to others, as Peter must have done, and stand "aloof", thinking that I am better than they are, because I "do" and they "do not" or because I believe my way is better than their way. With all of our discussions, denominations and divisions, what are we telling the world about the gospel? It seems to me that we are preaching with our lives that salvation is earned. If we do things a certain way, or if we are part of a certain denomination, than we can be saved. If you are on the outside we will look down on you. I am not saying that doctrine should be compromised, but I am saying that we need to be careful where we draw our lines. We are living in the age of grace. That does not mean that I should live my life however I please so that "grace may abound" (Romans 6) but it does mean that the same grace that was bestowed on me, I should be showing to others. I've often wondered what it means to "grow in grace". Could it be that we need to learn to show others grace just as it is shown to us? I am not better than anyone else. I am not saved because I am a wonderful person. I am saved because God chose to show mercy and give me His unmeritted favor because of who He is. I would do well to live in that grace!!