Monday, August 4, 2014

Wanting from within

Aesop wrote a fable about a man walking down the road with a cloak on, over his clothes. Meanwhile, the sun and the wind were arguing about which was more powerful (well, mostly the wind. Which is a whole other post!)

So the sun suggested a contest. "Whichever of us can get the man to remove his cloak is the most powerful." The wind agreed. "You go first," the sun said.

So the wind blew and blew. The man pulled his cloak around him tighter. Not wanting to appear to have lost, the wind blew harder. The man braced himself against the force of the wind, and held even more tightly to his cloak. 

Then it was the sun's turn as the wind gave up. The sun remained where he was, and shone brilliantly, heating the air - and the man - with his rays. Soon the man began to mop his forehead. He loosened his cloak and finally stopped and removed it, draping it over his arm before continuing on - with a smile. 

Photo "Silhouette Of People On Hill" courtesy of
moggara12 at
The moral of the story was that one can accomplish more with kindness than with force. I'd go a step further and apply this fable to the modern church. And by modern I mean anything after 900 AD.

The wind in this fable is the tendency to judge, to make someone conform to a strict moral code and then punish that person when he or she doesn't toe the line. This is most often attempted by the manipulative act known as shaming. (Yeah, you've had it happen to you. And like me, you've probably done it to others too, and felt completely justified in doing so ...) The problem with shaming is that it NEVER works. Instead, it causes the person to withdraw or move away, to try to appease and become a chameleon (not being real is never a good idea), or to confront or take out their anger and hurt on that person or group. I could do a whole post on this too. But not today. :)

The sun, by contrast, is the love and grace of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and the compassion of Jesus. This is an internal motivator. 

God doesn't shame us. He accepts us. He has made us "accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:6). He loves us ... and this great love (that is the cause of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf) makes it possible for Him to call us His children! (1 John 3:1)

In fact, His grace goes so very deep that Paul, after exploring how deep it is in Romans 5:8-11, addresses in Romans 6:1 the one fear I have heard so often expressed by "people of the wind" - how it's possible (and they can't accept this possibility in their works-based theology) to abuse God's grace by continuing in sin!! But Paul has just finished chapter 5 by implying that such a presumptuous lifestyle would be possible, given the depths of God's grace: "...where sin abounded, grace did much more abound..." (5:20)! His response to that hypothetical question is immediate. In chapter 6:2 (in that confusing Pauline language because well, he's Paul and he used to be a Pharisee, what can I say!!) he responds, "Of course not!! Why would you want to?" (Judy's paraphrase there...)

And that is just the point. Why would you WANT to?  Wanting to is the whole point, the whole reason why God made a way in Jesus to escape the consequences of our own inability to rescue ourselves. He wanted us to want Him. Not because He was holding our feet to the fire - that would be such bondage!! Grace - because God is the most - had to be the most anyone could imagine and then way beyond! This is the whole idea behind the scripture, "...the love of Christ constrains us." (2 Cor 5:14) That word "constrains" means "motivates from within" or "strains from inside or alongside." And that isn't something we drum up, working ourselves into a frenzied lather like the prophets of Baal did on Mount Carmel, trying to impress God with how holy we are. "In this is Love. Not that we love Him, but that HE LOVED US and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the wrath-taker] for our sins." (1 John 4:10). 

He did it. HE did it!! 

This full and free grace frees us. Completely! It buys us back (at SUCH great cost!!) from the slave-trader and makes us completely right with God, no holds barred, and declares that we are no longer slaves. Why would we want to go back to that kind of life, trying to keep with our own efforts what we could never have paid for in the first place? 

Wouldn't it be so much better to let the Sun shine in?

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