Friday, April 10, 2015

We Can't Save Anybody

A woman once said she knew she had saved at least two people by bringing them to Christ, but she wasn't sure that was enough to get her into heaven.

God keeps score? Is that what Easter tells us? Or is that what the world tells us?

The world tells us we have to achieve, we have to make the grade, we have to be somebody. We need a stellar curriculum vitae, we need to score more points than the other guy, we have to perform at the top of our game, fulfill our potential, summit the mountain...or we're nobody. If we live in the wrong neighborhood, have the wrong job, drive the wrong car, go to the wrong college, have the wrong major, wear the wrong clothes...we're nobody.

My earthly father once told me, "No one remembers who finishes second."

My heavenly father tells me, "My Son died for you."

The world told this woman she had to save a certain number of people--an unspecified quota--or she would burn in hell. Perhaps you've encountered this attitude of earned salvation yourself. Perhaps you are gay, or you got divorced, or you have a tattoo, or you don't belong to the right church, and someone made you feel ashamed and inadequate. A twelve-year-old girl once told my son he would go to hell because he wasn't in church every Sunday. My college roommate was told she would go to hell by her Pentecostal boyfriend because she was Catholic.

These judgments are based on what the world tells us, they incite fear and shame rather than trust or faith, and they work against God's glory.

God is the judge, and His mercy is boundless. Thanks be to God!

Easter teaches us that it's not our job to save anybody. That's God's job, and He already did it. When we start thinking we have to do something spectacular to earn our salvation or that salvation hinges on a particular prayer or practice or accomplishment we must perform...that's when we forget what Easter means.

God Self-Limited, in the form of Jesus, came to an earth so broken and sinful that it could never get itself out of the pit. But God loved us anyway. That love, that blood shed on the's done and cannot be undone. When we truly understand the depth and breadth of God's love for us, in our bones and hearts and heads, our only sensible reaction is gratitude and humility. We know we don't deserve to be loved so much. We will never deserve it. We can never earn it. And we can never expect others to earn it or deserve it, either.

God created us so He could love us and so we could love Him, each other, and ourselves.

That's the point: Love.

We aren't here to save other people. We are here to love everyone, to pour God's abundant love into the world and onto the hungry, the sad, the angry, the naked, the sick and hurt so that His love can feed, encourage, soothe, clothe, heal. And as people are fed, encouraged, soothed, clothed, and healed, they see God at work, the Spirit moves in their hearts, and they learn what Easter means for them.

We just have to be conduits for God's love. And as God is our witness, that is so very hard. It takes a lot of work to love some people, a lot of grace and mercy and forgiveness, and sometimes, we just don't have it in us. People will be so unlovable. You will be so unlovable. I will be so unlovable. We will always finish second to Jesus.

And that's just fine. We are, after all, Christ-followers. The best we can do is obey his new commandment, to love one another. By that, we glorify Him. By that, others will be drawn to Him.

We can't save anyone. We can only love them. The rest is up to God.

How have you encountered humans judging you in God's name? Did it lead you to God or separate you from Him? What led you to God? How were you brought to know your salvation? Who loved you all the way to faith?  How can you love others to faith? 

If you have doubts or shaky faith, know that we all do at times. Talk to your pastor or any pastor or Christian friend. If you meet with judgment, find someone else to be that conduit of love for you. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He Lives!

Lent is now over (feel free to eat chocolate again), and today begins the Easter season...50 days to celebrate that He lives. Note the present tense. He lives. When people challenged Alfred H. Ackley on this point, he wrote a hymn as his answer. In case you're not familiar with "He Lives," the refrain goes like this:

He lives, He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart!

How will you celebrate this living Savior over the next 50 days? Will you let Him live in your heart, lead you through the stormy blast, see His hand of mercy, and hear His voice of cheer?

I hope you and I will both open our hearts to celebrate Easter for the whole season, and not pack it away with the Easter baskets and plastic eggs.

Happy Easter.