Monday, March 26, 2012

GRACE

~Please Listen to This Newer Version of the Song Amazing Grace~
This was the song at Angela's memorial service.
[There was no blog last week. I have been working on my website - www.allachner.com . It still has a bit of work to do but it progressing. I also added a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Lachner.Al . I hope we can have discussions through these two pages. You will be able to jump back and forth between here and these two pages]


"For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled,
enslaved to various passions and desires,
spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and his 
love for us dawned upon this world,
he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done
but on the basis of his mercy,
through the washing of rebirth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us in full measure
through Jesus Christ our Savior.
And so, since we have been justified by his grace,
we become heirs with confident expectation of eternal life."
(Titus 3:3-7 The New English Bible)

When the Golden Gate bridge was constructed from 1933-1937, it was an engineering marvel. It spanned the 1.7 mile opening connecting the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay. During the beginning stages of the construction eleven men fell to their death, while working on the bridge. This caused a slow down in work, because the workers were in constant fear of falling. Eventually, a net was placed under the bridge which saved the lives of 19 men. They became part of the group, self-titled,  "The Halfway to Hell Club". Aside from saving 19 lives it took away much of the fear that was plaguing the workers, causing the work to speed up. I find a great deal of similarities between this story and the plight of many people today who profess a Christian faith. The Church has not done much to dissuade the fear and guilt many Christians face on a daily basis. Many churches and preachers use guilt to motivate and to some extent control those in their flocks. I talk to a great many people who are miserable in their Christian faith. They are constantly wondering if the are doing enough or doing the wrong things; with the constant fear of eternal torment in the back of their minds.

This is the antithesis of how the New Testament describes Christianity. There is a net! The passage above says we were not saved by how good we are. In fact, it states the opposite. The language that is used says God saved us, we do not save ourselves.  As we accept by faith that Jesus was and is the atonement for our sins and failures, we experience the grace of God. The word for Grace in Greek is Chiros or "gift". A gift is not earned, it is given. The response to a gift is thankfulness and gratitude, not guilt. Paul says in Romans 3, "Blessed is the man whom the Lord will never count his sin against him". John says in 1 John 1:7, "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, the blood of Jesus his son (continually - present indicative active in Greek) washes away our sins." In the context of 1 John, "Walking in the light" is defined by loving your brothers and sister in Christ, (see 1 John 2:9-12.) Notice this is not an arbitrary list of do's and don't from some power hungry preacher. Ultimately, it does not come down to how many times you attended church or that you don't smoke , drink or chew or go with those who do. It is based on how you treat people

Many churches are filled with people who have never missed a Sunday yet they are some of the most judgmental and mean people you will ever meet. They determine if people are dressed correctly, if they have the "truth" or if they are living up to some moral code they have concocted. Often their lives are consumed with gossip and using the failures of others to justify their own religious standing.

Whenever grace is brought up, James 2 comes into the discussion. James 2 talks about the need for works. That if our faith does not include works of righteousness, we have missed the mark. If you read the entire book of James, he is saying that there should be a response of gratitude by placing your faith in the grace of God. This passage is not yanking the net from under you, rather it is saying that if you have faith, you will treat people differently. Not for what you can get out of them but what you can do for them. Peter says, "We are free in Christ but do not use your freedom as a license for evil". Grace is not a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Again it is gratitude. It is a change from the inside out. Because we have experienced unconditional love and acceptance, we feel urged to share that kind of love with those around us.

So this week, reach out to some people you may have alienated. Show grace to them. It is a good time to heal old wounds.

Peace
~Al