Saturday, January 26, 2013

how you get is how you keep

so i was watching star trek (yes, i know, i'm such a nerd), an episode about a group of people who had been forced from their homeworld and were trying to use terrorism to get it back.  and the thought struck me, that if they did somehow manage to extort the invaders into giving them their world, they would have to maintain the ability to carry out their threats of violence, or else the invaders could come back and take it from them.  if at any point they could no longer terrorize their foes, either by lack of means or lack of will, the invaders would no longer have the deterrent that kept them off their homeworld in the first place.

i think this principle applies more broadly.  whatever means we use to get something, we have to maintain those means, or else whatever we gained by them will no longer be secure.  if we gain something by violence, like those people were trying to regain their homeworld, we must remain willing and able to do violence in order to keep it.  if i have gained someone's trust, i must continue to act trustworthily (say that five times fast), or else they will not trust me anymore, and i will lose what i could only have by that trust.  if someone loves me because of the what i can give them, i must continue to provide that, or i may lose their love.  how i get something is how i keep it.

on the one hand, this bring ups conversations i've had about Jesus and church.  if someone comes to church because they like the "show", you'd better perform well if you want them to keep coming.  if people come because they feel good when they leave, or because they're afraid of what may happen if they don't come back, you have to keep them feeling that way.  if people come because they love the Gospel, you'd better keep the Gospel front and center, or people will search for a people and a place that does.

but on a much deeper level, this is why the Gospel matters.  pretty much every other religion, philosophy, or ideology (or whatever label you want to throw on it) makes says that if you do this, you get that.  it's pretty much how the whole world works.  the flip-side of that is if you don't do this, you don't get that.  if i want to have money, i have to work.  if i want to keep my job, i have to work well.  if i want to have friends, i need to be likable and friendly.  and so on.

but the Gospel turns that on its head.  i didn't deserve good, but God loved me anyway.  more than that, i did great evil, but i get grace and mercy from the One i have wronged.  now that doesn't mean that i should sin more so that i get more grace.  but it's not what i've done that made God love me.  it's not what i thought or believed or said or did or decided.  He loved me of His own sovereign will, and by His grace i now love Him.

and since it is not my works that got me this grace, then my failings cannot take it from me.  because my right thoughts and actions did not bring me back to God, my shortcomings do not push Him away, and instead of running from Him when i am guilty and feel ashamed, i run to Him in repentance and faith.  and so my fickleness does not worry me; instead, i trust the One called Faithful and True, in whom there is no change or shadow of turning.  what He has done, He will bring to completionwhat He completes is completely done.

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