Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dad started doing the dishes

We are not called to live the gospel but to believe the gospel and to follow the law in view of God's mercies.

Michael Horton. Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (p. 124). Kindle Edition.

I find this to be an interesting quote. Doesn't living the gospel sound like a good idea? I hear people say things like "Be Jesus," and "What would Jesus do?" Aren't these things okay?

What does God really want from us? Many people would answer "relationship." But I think that depends on your definition of relationship. The Bible says God wants belief. But even that can be a tricky word to define. And then there are James' words that "even the demons believe - and shudder!"

So the belief that we have is not merely intellectual assent. It is a knowledge that leads to an action.

For some reason, I have been thinking about my Dad a lot lately. Growing up he was the bread winner, and Mom took care of the house. He got home from work at 5:00, and dinner was on the table as he stepped through the door. Afterwards, he did the man things that needed done around the house. Or sometimes took a nap on the couch. But after he retired, Dad was often found in the kitchen, cleaning up the dishes, even though Mom told him he didn't need to do it. (But I could tell that she really liked it.)

Why did he do it? Was it an attempt to get Mom to love him more? I don't think so. Was it guilt over all of the years she had done so much in the kitchen while he seldom set foot in there? Nah. I think it was just a deep expression of his appreciation and love for her. Over the years they had done so much for each other. I can still see Mom in the kitchen, making Dad an extra sandwich with the cheese that smelled worse than my socks after gym class. Same thing. She did it out of love, and not obligation or guilt. He worked hard to provide, and this was a way of expressing her appreciation.

So what does this have to do with the quote from today? I think it is the same idea. We don't try to live the gospel, but because we believe the gospel we respond to it in certain ways. I don't have to live under the burden of being Jesus or trying to figure out what he would do. I am not Jesus. I just have to believe in what He has done and respond in deep appreciation, not in perfection or obligation. The demons shudder because that is the part they lack, the appreciation that works itself out in their lives. They believe the gospel, but that very gospel itself makes them angry and in opposition to God.

So maybe that is why Jesus says that when we feed the hungry or visit those in prison "in his name," we have done a great service to him. It is not the action, but the appreciation because of our faith that he enjoys. Likewise, when the action occurs without the belief, it does not impress him. So what I need in my life is not more effort, but more faith that leads to the kind of response lets God know that even though all of the actions in my life could not repay the debt I owe, I deeply appreciate the fact that I no longer owe that debt.

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