Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Grief and Misery vs. Grace and Mercy

As some of you may have noticed, it's been a while since I've posted anything to this blog. Many probably thought I had abandoned the blog. Well, not really. Something called "life" got in the way. My wife discovered she had cancer, and 7 years later she succumbed.

That's not the entire reason, though, why I paused. We had started going to a church that sounded great. They taught "expositionally" (verse-by-verse) through the Bible, with a topical flavor to it. People wanted to be there to learn, not just to perform. People were coming in from all around, sick and tired of the meaningless ritual and hungry for God's Word.

Two things happened, though. The first was with me. I got lazy. In my previous church, I knew I wasn't going to be blessed by the beautiful music or the responsive reading or the "sermonettes for Christian-ettes." I sensed God wanted me there to feel like I belonged, and to show some of them what life in Christ was really about. That's life, 24/7, not just on Sunday morning. (I don't want to mention why I felt ashamed to attend church board meetings.)

In this new place, I was being fed. I didn't have to do as much heavy-lifting. It was all truth straight from Scripture. Wasn't it?

Something changed, though. Encouragement for growing in Christ became a focus on "doing life right." That turned into "obeying the commands of the Lord." Now, don't think I'm trying to dismiss the Ten Commandments or anything. I won't even say that calling baptism a "command from the Lord" was incorrect. They missed a vital point, though: what about those who couldn't obey every single precise command they pronounced? Were they shown grace and mercy publicly?


Instead, the vibe tended to be towards making them feel guilty for "disobeying the Lord."

It got worse. The senior pastor at one time, in one service (the one that didn't get recorded, of course), pronounced that married couples who didn't raise children -- either their own or adoptees -- were disobeying God's command! After service I asked him about this, and he sounded like he was desperately trying to back-pedal, with comments like "oh, it's a personal issue when you do this" and so forth. He never said he was mistaken, though.

I understand, or at least I've been told, that some people feel like they can "get away with disobeying," like little children hiding. I also know that I never depended on that, because it never worked for me. (I'd get blamed for stuff I didn't do anyhow, so what's the difference?) If adults really are that immature, then I suppose an emphasis on "accountability" and the like makes some sense.

God still loves us, though! Check out Romans 8:31-39. John 3:16-21. We still sin, yet Jesus took the death those sins cause and nailed them with His own body on the cross! Yes, sins still have earthly consequences. Yes, we should experience some grief and misery as the Holy Spirit convicts (but doesn't condemn) us. That shouldn't be the overriding emphasis from the pulpit, though! We all need grace and mercy, not guilt and misery!

Like I said above, if you feel no guilt and misery, the problem isn't the disobedience. The problem is your personal, one-on-one relationship with God. Encouragement to get that business settled is a good thing. I hope this little paragraph serves as that encouragement. But there's still hope.

Because of my upbringing, I beat myself up too much, according to my mother and my late wife, over little things. I don't believe for a moment that I'm going to get away with anything in the sight of God. I let myself get beat up over "willful disobedience," about not having children, about missing several other commands.

I had lost faith that God still accepted me.

I got lost in the grief and misery, never seeing the grace and mercy.
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