Tuesday, January 8, 2013

God Favors Us, but Plays No Favorites!

Before I knew that I knew that God was not dead, but alive, and that He was calling me out of the darkness of not knowing, into the light of His love, I held some misconceptions. Here are just a few examples of a “faulty understanding” (which is the definition of a misconception) of what it means to be a Christ-follower: that a dedicated life is a charmed life; that we can bargain with God; that we can interfere with God’s purposes by the things we do; that we can figure God out.

It can take time for our misconceptions--or myths--about God to be busted.

One that wreaks a devastating impact on faith, witness, love of self and others, and a trusting relationship in our Creator, is: “What we do, or how we do it reveals how God feels about us.”  Ouch. So much bad theology lies in that statement. It flies in the face of a Biblical understanding of a grace-based salvation, for one thing.

Yet, some of us--both Catholic and Protestant--are taught from a very young age (those of us who attended church and/or Sunday School) that how we live may affect God’s love for us. In some Christian circles, children and adults are instructed that makeup, short hair, tattoos, and certain styles of clothing are not allowed. In others, dancing, smoking and drinking alcohol are prohibited.

But perhaps more insidious is the subtle messages believers give one another about our standing as disciples based on our works. In my early days of faith, I was part of a ministry that had a wonderful impact on my growth as a believer. But this group also taught that if a member did not have certain spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12), they could not assume a leadership role. This misinterpretation of scripture caused some deep hurt among sincere, dedicated people. Those who did not demonstrate a certain spiritual gift felt less than in God’s eyes and in one another’s.

My husband was part of a incredible ministry that offered pastoral care in secular settings. It made a direct impact on the lives of many people who had never set foot inside a church. But every month, reports were to be submitted listing the number of “souls saved” and there was pressure--and maybe competition--to see those numbers rise. The level of success in ministry was based on a number, rather than the personal aspects of discipleship, which are far more difficult to measure. If one’s gifting is not evangelism, it would be easy in that context to think you are failing God.

Studying the Word and living out my faith, has helped in my own version of myth-busters. God is not listing my failures and successes as a measure of my worth ("Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1). 

Every gift is from God and does not indicate any special standing except His incredible forgiveness and grace extended to me and everyone else!

Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone. Acts 10:34, The Message.

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