Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A banquet of grace, part 2

1 Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

Romans chapter 9 relates very much to what is being encapsulated here in 1 Peter (I recommend you read the whole chapter)...in addition to helping us understand who Israel really is, it is made clear that God is righteous when He shows compassion as well as when He condemns.  If we start with a humanistic vantage point, we cannot swallow that.  It seems unfair to us, and the question gets asked: “How could a loving God condemn anyone?”  If we have ourselves at the center, we tend to overlook the wickedness of our rebellion and begin to reason that though we might not be perfect, we certainly don’t “deserve” to be sent to hell.  We put God on the stand as if we could rightly evaluate these things.  But if we start with the vantage point that God is God, He made the world and everything in it for His glory, and then remember mankind rebelled and stands guilty before a holy God worthy of nothing but condemnation, we can begin to see the glory of His grace and compassion shining brightly, as well as the glory of His holiness in His just judgments.  And instead of putting ourselves in the judge’s seat, we get on our knees before THE Judge and plead for mercy because in light of His holiness and our own sinfulness, we do not “deserve” anything but His wrath.  On our knees, we ask “How can our Holy God look upon a sinner like me without crushing me?”   And as He pours His mercy out on us, we stand up by faith as new creations in Christ...children of God who is Father to the fatherless, rich in mercy, abounding in love.

What does this have to do with our adoption discussion?  Well, I think it is important to see that those of us who have been grafted into the people of God, those of us He adopted, are recipients of mercy.  It helps us see rightly, I believe, that adoption is based in the compassionate heart of God, not upon the merits or rights or “deservedness” of those being adopted...it is a living out of His grace, a display of His mercy, His redemptive love in action.  Grace, by definition, is poured out upon the undeserving or ill-deserving.

A few things happen if we support the idea that every child “deserves” a family, or “deserves” to be able to go to school or to have clean water, etc.  I know that sounds heartless, but hear me out and see if you can grasp the nuance I'm chasing here.
  • They get “visited” in a way that promotes a spirit of entitlement in contrast to the gratitude that should well up in the hearts of every recipient of mercy (including our own).  An indicator that this is happening is that the grace of God is not celebrated as it ought to be in either the giving or receiving.
  • Because God’s mercy isn’t made much of, the glory tends to land on whoever is doing the “visiting.”  We’re fellow sinners on our knees pleading for mercy, remember?    Matt 10:7-8 says: “And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.  Matt 5:16 tells us to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Our giving is a way of pointing people to Jesus, a means of making much of Him, not of ourselves.
  • The “deserving” idea also tends to keep us from giving cheerfully because we are quick to fall back into thinking about ourselves.  Ask yourself, when you face something hard, are you quick to think “I don’t deserve this?”  And on the flip side, when things are going well do you rejoice in God’s mercy or do you simply think life is going as it should?  When we forget that the mercies of the LORD are new every morning for us, and fall into a “I deserve this or better” frame of mind, we are far more concerned about our own comforts and pleasures and safety and general well-being than we are about being instruments of God’s mercy in the lives of others with the hope that they too might taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I thought this needed to be brought up and considered because we live in a "rights and entitlement" society that can affect how we go about loving one another in a way that honors our Father.  I would add here that from the vantage point of God's justice, we should not stand by with excess while other image bearers of our God starve, have no option but to drink nasty water, be forced into child-trafficking, etc. If people are meaning "deserve" in this light, I hear you and agree...we ALL belong to God and we will all be called to account for how we live in relationship to others. Just think of the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. The rich man obviously didn't make the right choice! But if you've caught the nuance, the heart of the problem isn't so much that the suffering deserve to not suffer, but those of us who have had our suffering relieved are going to have a pretty tough time explaining to our compassionate Father why we didn't have pity like He did when we saw the depths of suffering around us and kept on feasting without offering them even a crumb when He not only lightened our load but gave us plenty to share. 
Next time, we will look at Psalm 8 because God has made mankind a little lower than the angels, crowned us with glory and honor, made us to steward or have dominion over the rest of His creation...He is mindful of us and has visited us. 

To be continued...

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