“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61: 1-3 New International Version
“The British writer Theodore Dalrymple confesses, ‘It is not as easy as one might suppose to rid oneself of the notion of God.’ After conceding that he is not a believer, he then proceeds to describe the void. ‘Believing there is no God does not make the thirst go away.’” (Vanishing Grace, pg. 31, Phillip Yancey)
I’ve been sitting here on a foggy Monday morning wondering just exactly what to write for today’s post; what will stimulate without sounding arrogant. We Christians often find ourselves accused of arrogance when communicating ideas, of having closed minds. This is how we present ourselves to the rest of the world! The grace of Jesus to which we so fondly and lovingly refer is frequently lacking in our responses to a world who sees life radically different from the way we do.
Why do we continue to be surprised when the world rejects what we hold to be of eternal value? And why do we keep trying to mold the world into our own image? That’s right, we continually try to make the world fit into the mold we have designed for it. Well, it can’t be what God desires for them because we don’t appear to be giving to the world the message God asked us to give.
I find it interesting that in the 2000 years since Jesus brought His gospel to this dying world the message has never changed, at least as far as God is concerned. His message remains the same. Humanity rebelled and the law of rebellion dictates that those who severe ties with the source of life die. God, knowing this issue was going to become a certainty since He created beings with the ability to exercise free will and choice, was prepared for the forthcoming rebellion. He had put into place the plan of salvation! The plan was so radical in its concept and implementation as to cause all creation in all of the billions of galaxies to wonder in awe at the amazing love and grace of the Creator! We are told the angels long to understand the depths of God’s love as it is applied to humanity.
Could it be this is the God that Theodore Dalrymple’s soul longed to drink in deeply to quench his soul’s thirst? Is it possible this is what the world is longing to know? Does the world at large really need us, the Christian community, to tell them what is wrong with them? I would propose God has given us the Ministry of Reconciliation rather than the Ministry of the Morality LEO’s (Law Enforcement Officers)! Is it any wonder the world views us with jaundiced eyes, and even more to the point is the way they have come to see God, through our abuses of His name!
“Although Christians and the uncommitted may agree on a diagnosis, we disagree on the cure. Unlike the Samaritan woman, not everyone chooses to sample the Living Water that Jesus promised would quench thirst.” (Vanishing Grace pg. 32)
What is it that keeps unbelievers from accepting this message that provides answers to the deepest needs we have? Is the problem not with the message, but possibly with either the messengers or the way the message is given? We are flawed individuals who will get it wrong; that’s not really the issue as long as we are willing to be honest about our own journey. The message is filled with the power of God to transform and fill lives with hope and purpose. The problem is that we make the message about what we want, rather than what will make the most difference for those who need God’s Grace!
“To mention one example, the daughter of the famous atheist Bertrand Russell says that her father’s ‘whole life was a life search for God…Somewhere at the back of my father’s mind, at the bottom of his heart, in the depths, of his soul, there was an empty space that had once been filled by God, and he never found anything else to put in it.’” (Vanishing Grace pg. 32)
When someone loses the Light that once meant so much or if they have never seen that Light, won’t the way we approach them determine their openness to the Grace we know changes everything? The woman who met and had a conversation with Jesus at the well experienced a transformation so astounding it removed her need to hide from her neighbors! Instead, the encounter with Jesus caused her to seek out those who had ridiculed her and invite them to meet “…this Man who knows everything about me!” Her whole perspective became something new, even moving her beyond the shame she had lived with her entire adult life!
“Russell’s daughter (writes), ‘I would have liked to convince my father that I had found what he had been looking for, the ineffable something that he longed for all his life. I would have liked to persuade him that the search for God does not have to be in vain. But it was hopeless. He had known too many blind Christians, bleak moralists who sucked the joy from life, persecuted their opponents; he would never have been able to see the truth they were hiding.’” (Vanishing Grace pp.32 33)
“… he would never have been able to see the truth they were hiding.” Is it possible the negative attitudes the Christian Community is harvesting comes from our need for an attitude adjustment? Are we jousting with windmills instead of following the directions of Jesus to take to the world the gospel that is needed? Our directions from Jesus are clear, deliver the gospel of Jesus that transforms lives. After all, transformation is God’s responsibility!
“but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 Revised Standard Version