Take the plunge

211 take the plungeA famous parable of Jesus: Two people go to the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee, the other a publican (Lk 18,9.14). Today, two thousand years after Jesus recounted this parable, we might be tempted to nod knowingly and say, "Sure, the Pharisees, the epitome of self-righteousness and hypocrisy!" Well ... but let's disregard that assessment try to imagine how the parable worked on Jesus' listener. First, the Pharisees were not considered the bigoted hypocrites for whom we, the Christians with 2000 years of church history, like to hold them. Rather, the Pharisees were the pious, zealous, religious religious minority of the Jews who courageously opposed the growing tide of liberalism, the compromises, and the syncretism of the Roman world with its pagan Greek culture. They called people to return to the law and committed themselves to faith in obedience.

If the Pharisee prays in the parable: "Thank you, God, that I am not like the other people," then that is not an overconfidence, not an empty grandiosity. It was true. His respect for the law was blameless; he and the Pharisaic minority had pledged allegiance to the law in a world where the law was rapidly losing its importance. He was not like other people, and he does not even credit himself - he thanks God for doing so.

On the other hand, customs officers, the tax collectors in Palestine, had the worst possible reputation - they were Jews who collected taxes from their own people for the Roman occupying forces and often enriched themselves in an unscrupulous manner (compare Mt 5,46). Thus the distribution of roles for Jesus' listeners will have been immediately clear: the Pharisee, the man of God, as the "good" and the publican, the archetypal rogue, as the "evil".

As always, however, Jesus gives his parable an unexpected statement: What we are or what we have been up to has no effect on God either positively or negatively; He forgives everyone, even the worst sinner. All we have to do is trust him. And just as shocking: whoever believes he is fairer than others (even if he has solid evidence for that), is still in his sins, not because God has not forgiven him, but because he is not received, which he does not need have faith.

Good news for sinners: The gospel is for sinners, not the righteous. The righteous do not grasp the true gospel of the gospel because they believe they do not need that kind of gospel. The gospel appears to the righteous as the good news that God is on His side. His trust in God is great because he knows that he lives more godly than the obvious sinners in the world around him. With a sharp tongue he condemns the awfulness of the sins of others and is glad to be close to God and not to live like the adulterers, murderers and thieves he sees on the street and in the news. For the righteous, the gospel is a fanfare against the sinners of the world, a flaming admonition that the sinner should cease to sin and live as he, the righteous, lives.

But that's not the gospel. The gospel is good news for sinners. It explains that God has already forgiven them their sins and given them a new life in Jesus Christ. It is a message that makes the sinners who are tired of the cruel tyranny of sin sit up. It means that God, the God of righteousness, who they thought was against them (because he has every reason to do so), is really for them and even loves them. It means that God does not forgive them for their sins, but that the sins already dispensed by Jesus Christ are already freed from the stranglehold of sin. It means that you do not have to live a single day in fear, doubt and conscience. It means that they can build on the fact that God in Jesus Christ is all they have for them - the Promoter, Savior, Savior, Advocate, Protector, Friend.

More than religion

Jesus Christ is not just a religious donor figure among many. He is not a blue-eyed weakling with noble, but in the end world-strange conceptions of the power of human goodness. He is also no moral teacher among many, who called people to "striving effort," to moral refinement, and more social responsibility. No, when we speak of Jesus Christ, we speak of the eternal source of all things (Hebr 1,2-3), and more than that: He is also the Redeemer, the Purifier, the reconciler of the world, the whole by his death and resurrection the orbit of the universe has reconciled with God (Kol 1,20). Jesus Christ is the one who created all that exists, who carries in every moment everything that exists, and who has taken upon himself all sins to redeem all that exists, including you and me. He came to us as one of us to make us what he created us to do.

Jesus is not just a religious donor figure among many, and the gospel is not just a sacred book among many. The Gospel is not a new and improved Rule, Formula and Policy Collection that wants to make good weather for us with a cranky, ill-tempered Higher Being; it is the end of religion. "Religion" is bad news: It tells us that the gods (or God) are terribly angry with us and can be appeased only by x-fold meticulous rule compliance and then smile at us again. But the gospel is not "religion": it's God's own good news to humanity. It declares all sin to be forgiven and every man, woman and child to be the friend of God. It makes an incredibly large, unconditional offer of reconciliation, unconditionally, valid for anyone who is smart enough to believe and accept it (1Joh 2,2).

"But there is nothing in life for free," you say. But, in this case, there is something for free. It is the greatest of all conceivable gifts, and it has eternal existence. To get it, only one thing is needed: to trust the donor.

God hates sin - not us

God hates sin for one reason only - because it destroys us and everything around us. You see, God does not mean to destroy us because we are sinners; He intends to save us from the sin that destroys us. And the best part is - he has already done it. He already did it in Jesus Christ.

Sin is evil because it cuts us off from God. It makes people scared of God. It keeps us from seeing reality as it is. It poisons our joys, upsets our priorities, and transforms serenity, peace, and contentment into chaos, fear, and fear. It makes us despair of life, even and especially when we actually achieve and possess what we believe we want and need. God hates sin because it destroys us - but he does not hate us. He loves us. That's why he did something about sin. What he did is forgive them - he took away the sins of the world (Joh 1,29) - and he did it through Jesus Christ (1T in 2,6). Our status as sinners does not mean that God shows us the cold shoulder, as it is often taught; it has the consequence that we, as sinners, have departed from God, alienating us from Him. But without him we are nothing - our whole being, everything that makes us depends on him. Thus, sin acts like a double-edged sword: on the one hand it forces us to turn our backs on God out of fear and mistrust, to reject his love; On the other hand, she makes us hungry for exactly this love. (Parents of adolescents will be able to feel this very well.)

Sin is eradicated in Christ

Perhaps in your childhood, when you were a grown-up, you were given the idea that God is a stern judge, that he carefully weighs every one of our actions, ready to punish us if we do not do it all right, and us Heaven's Gate, we should make it. But the gospel now gives us the good message that God is not a strict judge at all: we have to orient ourselves completely to the image of Jesus. Jesus - the Bible tells us - is the perfect image of God for our human eyes ("the image of his being," Heb 1,3). In him, God "lowered himself", came to us as one of us, to show us exactly how he is, how he acts, with whom he cultivates fellowship, and why; in him we know God, he is God, and in his hands is the magistracy.

Yes, God has made Jesus the judge of the whole world, but he is anything but a strict judge. He forgives sinners; he "judges", ie does not condemn them (Joh 3,17). They only become damned if they refuse to seek forgiveness from Him (verse 18). This judge pays the punishments of his defendants out of pocket (1Joh 2,1-2), declaring everyone's guilt extinguished for eternity (Kol 1,19-20) and then invites the whole world to the greatest celebration in world history. We could now endlessly sit and debate about faith and non-belief and who is trapped and who is excluded from His grace; or we can leave all that to him (there it is in good hands), jump up and sprint to his celebration, and on the way spread the good news to everyone and pray for all who cross our path.

Justice from God

The gospel, the good news, tells us: You already belong to Christ - accept it. Rejoice over it. Entrust your life to him. Enjoy his peace. Let your eyes open for the beauty, the love, the peace, the joy in the world that can only be seen by those who rest in Christ's love. In Christ, we have the freedom to confront our sinfulness and admit it to us. Because we trust him, we can confess our sins fearlessly and load them on his shoulders. He is on our side.

"Come to me," says Jesus, "all who are laborious and burdened; I want to refresh you. Take my yoke on you and learn from me; for I am meek and humble of heart; you will find peace for your souls. Because my yoke is gentle, and my burden is light "(Mt 11,28-30).

When we rest in Christ, we refrain from measuring justice; quite bluntly and honestly, we can now confess our sins to him. In Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk 18,9-14), it is the sinful publican who unreservedly acknowledges his sinfulness and wants God's mercy to be justified. The Pharisee, who is from the outset dedicated to righteousness, a quasi-book-guide of his sacred achievements, has no eye for his sinfulness and his corresponding acute need for forgiveness and mercy; therefore he does not stretch out his hand and does not receive the righteousness that comes only from God (Rom 1,17, 3,21, Phil 3,9). His "devout life according to regulations" obscures his view of how deeply he needs God's favor.

Honest assessment

In the midst of our deepest sinfulness and godlessness Christ comes to us with mercy (Rom 5,6 and 8). Right here, in our blackest injustice, the sun of justice, with salvation under its wings, is rising for us (Mal 3,20). Only when we see ourselves as we are in our true need, as the usurer and tax collector in the parable, only when our daily prayer "God be merciful to me sinner", only then can we breathe again in the warmth of the healing embrace of Jesus.

There is nothing we have to prove to God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our sinfulness, he knows our need of mercy. He has already done everything we needed to do to ensure our eternal friendship with him. We can rest in his love. We can trust his word of forgiveness. We do not have to be perfect; we just have to believe in him and trust him. God wants us to be his friends, not his electronic toys or his tin soldiers. He seeks love, not cadaver obedience and programmed hedonism.

Faith, not works

Good relationships are based on trust, strong bonds, loyalty and, above all, love. Pure obedience is not enough as a foundation (Rom 3,28, 4,1-8). Obedience has its place, but - we should know that - it counts for the consequences of the relationship, not for its causes. If you base your relationship with God on obedience alone, you either fall into stifling arrogance like the Pharisees in the parable or in fear and frustration, depending on how honest you are when reading your degree of perfection on the perfection scale.

CS Lewis writes in Christianity par excellence that there is no point in saying that you trust someone if you do not take his advice. In other words, he who trusts in Christ will also listen to his advice and put it into action to the best of his ability. But who is in Christ, who trusts him, he will do his best without fear of being rejected in case of failure. This happens to us all very often (failure, I mean).

When we rest in Christ, our effort to overcome our sinful habits and ways of thinking becomes a committed attitude, rooted in God's faithful forgiveness and salvation. He did not throw us into a never ending battle for perfection (Gal 2,16). On the contrary, he takes us on a pilgrimage of faith, where we learn to shake off the chains of bondage and pain from which we have already been freed (Rom 6,5-7). We are not condemned to a Sisyphean wrestling for perfection that we can not win; instead, we gain the grace of a new life in which the Holy Spirit teaches us to rejoice in the new man, created in righteousness and hidden with Christ in God (Eph 4,24, Kol 3,2-3). Christ has already done the hardest thing - to die for us; how much more will he now do the easier - to bring us home (Rom 5,8-10)?

The leap of faith

Faith, we are told in Hebrews 11,1, is our firm confidence in what we, the beloved of Christ, hope for. Faith is the only real evidence of the good that God has promised - the good that remains hidden from our five senses. In other words, with the eyes of the faith we see, as if it were already there, the wonderful new world, in which the voices are friendly, the hands are gentle, where there is plenty to eat and no one is a geek. We see what we have no tangible, physical evidence in the current evil world. The faith generated by the Holy Spirit that kindles in us the hope of salvation and redemption of all creation (Rom 8,2325) is a gift of God (Eph 2,8-9), and in him we are embedded in his peace, his rest and his Joy through the incomprehensible certainty of his overflowing love.

Did you dare to take the leap of faith? In a culture of gastric ulcers and high blood pressure, the Holy Spirit urges us on the path of serenity and peace in the arms of Jesus Christ. Moreover, in a frightening world of poverty and disease, hunger, brutal injustice and war, God calls us (and enables us) to turn our faithful gaze to the light of His Word, which is the end of the pain, the tears, the tears Tyranny and death and the creation of a new world where justice is at home are promised (2Pt 3,13).

"Trust me," Jesus tells us. "Regardless of what you see, I'm redoing everything - including you. Do not worry any more and rely on me for you, for your loved ones and for the whole world to be exactly what I have announced. Do not worry any more and rely on me to do exactly what I have said for you, for your loved ones and for the whole world. "

We can trust him. We can load our burdens on our shoulders - our burdens of sin, our burdens of fear, our burdens of pain, disappointments, confusion and doubt. He will wear it as he has carried and wears us even before we knew it.

by J. Michael Feazel


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