Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why Do We Deserve to Be Saved?

Questions from our Culture:  Week 3 Recap

The Science fiction series Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) spoke about many of the issues of faith that people in our time are wresting with.  It did this by taking elements of  different faiths and dividing them up between the different characters of the drama.  In no way do the religions of the show completely conform to an actual human belief system, but they do have ideas in common with contemporary and even historical faith communities.  The result is fascinating portrayal of a life in a universe with competing religious ideas.
We are using this portrayal at Holy Cross to engage some of life's most important questions.  These are not only found on TV but in the Bible itself.  Even better, the Bible begins to lead us to some answers to these life changing questions.

Nobody asked the question why? 

The moment I knew that knew there was something different about Battlestar Galactica was when I saw the  scene where the main character Bill Adama makes a speech at the decommissioning of his space ship.   He speaks about the history of the war that he had participated in.   He recounted the high cost of that those who served had to pay and he wondered if it was all worth it.   He wanted to know the answer to the moral question; do we deserve to survive?   He recounted that since the war was over people still committed murder and visited their sins upon their children.  He recounted how human beings were complicit in the actions that led to a horrible war.  Adama concluded that the human attempt to wash our hands from the consequences of our actions would be futile when he says,  "there comes a day when you can no longer hide from the things that you have done anymore"  That statement recalled to mind the words of the prophet Amos as he challenged a comfortable Israel to examine what it really means to be the people of God.   Why do you want the day of the LORD? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear. (Amos 5:18-19 NRSV) One day the consequences of our actions will come home to roost.

That does not mean we do not try to wash our hands of the consequences or ignore the pain we inflict in the world because of both our actions and our inaction.   When bad things happen to us don't we pretend innocence and construct narratives of why deserve the good and are unjustly given calamity?  When something we have done is made clear to us and we feel guilt, don't we just turn our heads away?  Don't we try give God partial information and make rationalizations?  We will use all our creativity to find a reason to tell ourselves that we are indeed worth all the good and deserve none of the bad.  "I'm a good person, I'm not that bad, I pay my bills, I worked hard, I earned it"   The Biblical prophets came to shatter this type of thinking with the truth that we mock God, when think we can hide or run away from things.  St. Paul reveals the truth of humanity.  All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.  (Romans 2:12 NRSV) So indeed the Bible has a clear answer to the question do we deserve to survive?

We don't deserve to be saved!

But we are!  Deserving salvation is not the point.   The actions of God have nothing to do with whether one deserves them or not, they are simply about love.  The Bible makes this point over and over again.  God has chosen to love those whom he has created.  For example, as Israel prepares to enter the promised land  Moses recounts.  It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you-- It was because the LORD loved you  (Deuteronomy 7:7-8 NRSV) Israel was not saved in the Exodus and given the continued salvation of a land to call home because they deserved it.  In fact, the Torah reminds us that the Israelites in the wilderness pretty much did everything to show they didn't deserve it, but God gave them grace anyway.   

This grace and salvation can not be compelled.   It must be freely given.   It is why Jesus says.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.."  (John 10:18 NRSV)  St. Paul declares  they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  (Romans 3:24 NRSV).  Grace is a free gift of God, you have no right to it, no claim on it, and you certainly did not do anything to deserve it.  

Grace Matters!!

The simple fact of the matter is that life is a gift.   You had no control of how you entered this life.   You also had no control that you survived to this point in your life.   In some point in your life you relied on grace to help you survive or even save you.   I have heard it said "we are all alive right now because our mothers decided not to open up a window and throw us out."  As an infant you were completely dependent on the grace of those who cared for you,  and you did nothing to deserve that care.   God wants us to understand that our salvation works the same way.   It is why Jesus states that we must enter God's kingdom as a child. 

It is often said that the opposite of faith is doubt.  I do not believe this is true.  The real opposite of faith is a sense of entitlement.   God must bless me,  I should be saved,  I was born in the right country, tried to be a good person, so I deserve to live! When you see salvation as a right you close yourself to God and allow your heat to harden to the predicaments of others.  If you demand salvation because you think you deserve it you try to bind and restrict the freedom of God,  but God will not be bound.  Those who view the world through a sense of entitlement will at some point come only to bitterness and despair like Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man"  and indeed go to their graves as an angry old men (or women).   Those who understand that they are more like the Israelites in the wilderness who wander around and often make a mess a things, have a better chance at true peace.   The true peace comes when they encounter the God of grace, allow their hearts to be soft and to accept the abundant life of Jesus as a complete gift.   Not because we deserve it; but because we are loved. 

Stay tuned for week 4- How do we life with guilt? 

Keep the Faith, 

Pastor Knecht

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