Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fair's Fair

I was listening to a podcast by Andy Stanley about the fairness of Christianity. He contended that Christianity is not based on fairness, but truth. It does not seem fair that one sin would make us a sinner, but that is indeed the case. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, we inherited their punishment, and all became sinners in need of grace; the issue of fairness went out the window. We are all sinners, because not one person can say they have not sinned; one sin makes a sinner. And because of God's justice, sin has to be accounted for.

Yesterday I got an application for life insurance from AAA. One of the questions was have you used nicotine in the last twelve months. It seemed unfair, and totally legalistic. Have just one cigarette in a year's time and you're paying more than twice the normal rate. Does one cigarette a year make one a smoker? I personally don't think so. At the same time, there's no gray area: if you've smoked once, you're a smoker, as far as AAA is concerned. Doesn't seem fair. In any case, I made a resolve not to smoke at all for the next year, so that, if anything, I can answer the question of nicotine use honestly and receive a lower rate.

I can resolve to not smoke and follow through on that and free myself from the higher rates for life insurance, but the same cannot be said about my sin. I cannot free myself from damnation by resolving never to sin again, because it would never work. No matter how hard I try to get myself into the 'no sin' category, I would fall short, guaranteed.

I don't believe that one cigarette a year makes one a bonafide smoker; but the least sin, no matter how small, makes us fall short of the perfection that God demands, and as such, makes us unworthy of heaven. Christ bore the punishment for our sins. The way to salvation is through faith in him, through the faith that trusts that God accepted Christ's perfect sacrifice for us as sufficient to merit heaven. Doesn't seem very fair to me that Christ should have to die. But then again, just because it's not fair doesn't mean its not true.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Medjugorje

A couple years ago I met a girl who had a life-changing experience at Medjugorje. I thought about it a lot after that, and even felt that the Blessed Mother was calling me there to experience her presence and witness her miracles, including the miracle of the spinning sun. I didn't know much about Medjugorje, or even what country it was in, but I knew that at some point in my life, I should get there, that something--I don't know what--was waiting for me there.

I haven't been to Medjugorje yet; I keep putting it off. I have a skeptic's heart, a regular Doubting Thomas. But I desire a deeper relationship with the Mother of God, because she is looking out for us as any mother would. She is warning us of the impending judgment that is coming, the "chastisement for the sins of the world." I haven't been touched yet; I feel unprepared for what lies ahead. Though I did see the sun in the sky yesterday and it looked...very strange. It reminded me of Medjugorje.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Sincere Heart

My wife is helping to lead a women's retreat this weekend, and she is stressing out about her talk: "Loving God with a Sincere Heart." As soon as I got home from my college fair, she confronted me: "Help!" she said, "I don't know what to write!" It got me thinking about what a sincere heart really is, and who possesses it.

My models for sincerity are David (in the Old Testament) and Peter (in the New Testament). I don't know why, but I always equate the two together, like Peter is the New David in some way. David danced in a loin cloth before the Lord, he didn't care what people thought. He ate the showbread because he was hungry. He sinned boldly, but was quick to see his own fault, and humble enough to admit it. And he loved the Lord madly. Psalm 51, which was written after Nathan the prophet confronts David after his affair with Bathsheba, says of the Lord, "you insist on sincerity of heart."

Peter was brazen, but only because he loved the Lord with everything he had. When Peter said, "though all may fall away, I will not fall away," he was being sincere. But he was wrong, too! He did fall away, but his sincerity displayed itself in the tears of shame he wept after realizing he had denied Jesus, and was being shown what he was at that time: a hypocrite, a liar, a bad friend.

But was this all Peter was? Does his denying Christ reduce him to just that--a denier? Jesus did not reduce Peter to what he was at that moment; rather, he saw him in his entirety. Part of sincerity is not pretending to be anything other than what you are--a sinner--while at the same time not reducing yourself to that identity. It is having "eyes to see."

In chapter 18 of the book of John, Peter is denying Christ three times. By chapter 21, Jesus is asking Peter, "do you love me?" and Peter has the audacity to proclaim three times, "Lord, you know that I do." Is he being sincere? I believe he is. So moral failing and sincerity must have something to do with one another. Someone could say, "he is not sincere because what he says (I love you) does not match up with his actions (I don't know you). Peter does not get "stuck" on his imperfection, but boldly proclaims his love for Christ in spite of it.

Sincerity (like repentance) comes from the heart...not the mind. The heart is not perfect, but it can be, I believe, perfectly sincere. And a sincere heart does not pay heed to those who stand in judgment of it, dredging up the sins of the past and wagging them in front of it, because it knows that only God can judge the heart, for "man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What Might Happen

We took my sister-in-law's kids to the park today, they were riding bikes and running around, being kids. And this side of me came out...what was it? Control freak! "Jackson, don't go too far! Bella, come back here!" They weren't out of control, but I was not in control. I didn't want them out of my sight. I was afraid something might happen to them.

I would like to stop worrying about "what might happen." It is keeping me from "living in the present," as the saying goes. I don't want to be one of those parents that doesn't let their kids play for fear of something that might happen. Control seems to be the opposite of play.

What if I did let one of the kids out of my sight? It's hard to say. Something could happen, something might not. It's a fine balance, this being responsible. I haven't quite figured it out yet.