Saturday, November 11, 2006
Gary Means: Part 1 Part 2
Layla, whose post introduced me to this.
This kind of thing needs to stop. Jesus didn't die so that a man could be right and impose his ideas on thousand of others, or even a whole city. Given how we're taught to live as Christians, though, falling away is just about a given.
Think about this: you open a door and look into a room. On the far side is another door and it's your task to walk to that other door. It'd be easy but for the fact that the floor is dimpled and slippery. There are many paths across but they all require you to balance on the ridges between the depressions. No matter where you put your feet they're on a slope one way or another. Sometimes the slope is almost imperceptible and your senses won't detect it, and you wander away, gradually descending away from that illuminated door.
No application of rules will help you identify the moment you start to turn away. All you can do is apply the rule and hope that its very rigidity keeps you from falling in. Perhaps you'll avoid one pit but in the adherence to a straight-ahead course you'll just go over the edge into another pit, like a skier out of synch with the ridges in a ski run.
Well, OK. Given that we can't hold onto the ridge, what's the answer? Has God just set us at that door and then abandoned us? Sink or swim, do it or you're done? This is the kind of teaching that I got, and I think there are many others for whom this is the way. Rules are easy to teach and response is easy to measure. You either follow the rule or you don't. Transgressions are easy to spot, and there are many people watching.
God isn't watching for mistakes. He's not rubbing his hands in glee, hoping you'll screw up so he'll have an excuse to zap you. If that were how he leads I'd be dead by now.
No, what He does is teach you to recognize the territory you're walking. He will give you the ideas, the judgment, the discrimination to stay on the path He has given you. If you fall off he will help you climb back to where you need to be, and He'll help you use the experience to learn about the walk. He walks with you and holds your feet, to keep them from slipping into the depressions. It's a subtle process, but strong. It's easy to run off, headstrong, leave God behind, and easy to fall. God expects that, though, and His work with us takes the ease of distraction into account. He knows I'm weak.
I believe that if there were more teaching of God's grace there would still be many problems, but recovering from them would be if not easier, then at least more likely. There isn't any easy way to walk to that far door. God Himself knows this! He knows we fall. That's why Jesus died, once for all. Far more than 7 times, or 777 times, we will be forgiven for falling. Everyone, me, Layla, Gary, Mark Driscoll, falls. What really makes a Christian is what they do after they fall. Failing, again. Spiritual abuse leads to sneaking around the Garden, hoping God won't notice my nakedness. Grace recognizes my poverty and gives me not only a fig leaf but another gentle lesson in how to live in a fallen world.
Maybe that's the most critical lesson a pastor could teach. Turn to God when things go wrong. Throw away the list of rules. Quit worrying about failure and let God teach us how to handle, for the first time in our lives, success. That doesn't come from the approval of other people, nor even a measure of how much we've done for God. Success means just taking that next step with God.