Thursday, October 4, 2012
This week I've listened to a couple of sermons that have blown my mind. You can listen here and here. The pastor, Jean Larroux, was an assistant pastor at my church YEARS ago. I used to go to all his Bible studies (and I wasn't even attending there at the time). Now he has his own church in Alabama, and I sometimes listen to his sermons online while I work. In this series he's addressing "parking place theology" - the false belief that obedience should equal blessing. This is rooted in a false belief that, even as Christians, in Christ, we still have to work to appease God or put a smile on His face – e.g., we do a good deed, and God rewards us with a good parking place at Target. When we believe this, our faith becomes no different from karma, or tribal people making sacrifices to the rain god. Wow.
When I really started to think about this topic, I was STUNNED by all the ways it manifests in my life. As Jean says, it's easier, for some of us, in theory, to live by the Law than by grace. I am a born Good Girl and rule-follower. I like a how-to. I like a list of concrete steps which, if followed correctly, will yield a good, predictable result and a gold star. I can endure a lot of difficult things if I know there will be some reward or payoff. But we're not promised a payoff in this life. Many of us have sought and struggled to honor God and do the right thing in the midst of tragic or unjust circumstances, and bad things happened anyway. Sometimes they kept on happening. Or we just didn't get the rewards we were expecting. I have a lot of personal experience with this. I do believe that God, like any Father, is pleased when we genuinely want to please Him, but we shouldn't do so to earn His love or anticipate some compensation for those lame efforts.
I'm muddled about how redemption factors into this whole deal. Where's the line between hoping for God to redeem a wrong or loss (which He's proven throughout Scripture and history that He loves to do), and looking for our good parking place? I don't know. I will never have all the answers. But these messages gave me a start.