Sunday, March 1, 2015

Type A Torture

First-year business students study the difference between the Type A and Type B kinds of managers. Type B managers include their employees in decision-making, encourage growth and creativity, and develop relationships with their employees. They do this, not to have something to hold over their employees or even to make them more productive, but to learn what things are important to them, to learn what tools they need to do their jobs and to feel safe while doing them. Employees will just about walk through fire for a Type B manager.  They'll go above and beyond the call of duty because they know that their manager cares about them and will support them no matter what.

Type A managers, on the other hand, are more goal-oriented. They push their employees for results and they're frequently saying that whatever the person is producing is not enough, that they need to do more, produce more, go faster, work better. They're all about following the rules and cracking the whip, and more often than not, throwing their employees under the bus if they mess up. That sort of approach may get results, (fear works) but employees are not likely to go the extra mile for a Type A manager and will only do the bare minimum. 

Once in a while, a Type A manager will say that he or she is "for" the employee, but it's a means to an end. They say "thank you" because those words are proven to give the message to employees that they are appreciated and the studies all say that people who feel appreciated are more likely to do things for you. They will even say that they "care" - but it's all for the greater purpose of increasing the efficiency of the unit, or the division, or the company. 

There are Type A managers in just about every organization and the church is no exception. I can't count the number of times that that horrible word "should" has been used like a club on people's heads to batter people with guilt and shame. And it's incredibly easy to do. SO incredibly easy. All one has to do is hold up some sort of standard of perfection, and then get insecure people who don't know their own worth to react, jump when one says jump, "repent" and vow to do better. I've seen it over and over and over again. The sad part is, the message people get is that they have to produce that desired end result and THEN God will come through. Or accept them. Or let them get into Heaven.

It's sickening. 

God knew we could not keep the law or be holy or be perfect; that's why Jesus came!! Adding in the requirement to keep the law after knowing the benefits of Grace is a little doctrine the apostle Paul fought all his life - it's called Judaizing (not to be confused with Judaism). And it is right out of the Pit of hell. The entire book of Galatians is written to counter this most dangerous of religious beliefs. Paul got into the biggest "Christian argument" of his life with someone who was heading down that path - the apostle Peter! "I withstood him to his face," Paul writes of that experience. 

I'm not saying by all of this that we shouldn't be living holy lives or that we shouldn't be spreading the gospel. Far from it!! However, let's be clear about how this happens.

WE don't do it. HE does. 

Let's look at some basic, wonderful truth and use it to counter the guilt-and-shame trips we've been taken on for years. 

Photo "Jesus Christ Over Rio De Janeiro" by
xura at
Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, He regenerates every person who believes (puts their whole weight) on Him. In other words, He recreates us into brand new creations. The old has [already] passed away; the new has [already] come! (2 Cor 5:17) Every sin we have ever committed or ever will commit is ALREADY forgiven!! (John 5:24, Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 10:12-14). 

This means (stay with me) that once we are Christians, God sees us just the same way, with the same degree of righteousness, as He sees Jesus. He has made Jesus to be sin for us, He who knew no sin, so that we could be made the righteousness of God IN HIM. (2 Corinthians 5:21) 

We are holy automatically because He is (the real meaning of 1 Peter 1:16 is "You will be holy because I am holy...") - there is no need to TRY to be holy (we will FAIL if we TRY. Human effort will ALWAYS fail!) This is a walk of FAITH, not a walk of EFFORT. The more we realize what He has already provided for us (and Love tops the list by far!), the more we are aware of just how much was accomplished for us at the Cross, just how free we really are because of His love, the more grateful to Him we will become and the more naturally His character will shine through us as we walk in that glorious truth!

Can't we see that we've gotten it backwards and upside-down this entire time? Asking God for what was already ours to begin with, begging God to forgive us for things that have already been forgiven to the max long ago, even striving (in our own strength, no less) to do things that He has already provided the power to do through us just through knowing Him more deeply and becoming more aware of His love for us? How much bondage the church has suffered! how much "Type A torture" we have been through needlessly! 

You know what? Given the choice between life or death, I think most of us would choose life. But I'll tell you something that dawned on me a few years back: it takes half a second to die for your faith. A bullet through the brain or the heart and death is instantaneous. A scimitar (curved sword) in the hands of a skilled swordsman can behead a person in under a second. No, it's not "hard" to die for your faith. It might not be a pleasant prospect (the act of dying that is) but death only takes a moment.

But this is the challenge: it takes a lifetime of moment-by-moment realization of His love for us to live out our faith - not in shame or guilt for how we're not doing it right, or fervently enough, or loud enough, or whatever the Type A folks say we're not doing right. The Christian life was meant to be joyous and free - Jesus said that He'd come to give us life, and not just life, but life more abundantly. (John 10:10) Living in the constant knowledge that I am accepted in Him, that He loves me unconditionally, that all of my sin and baggage and sickness is demolished in the Cross - that is truly living. Truly living is nothing more than living Him.

This is why Paul said, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) That's all the Christian life is. It's Jesus. It's Him constantly loving us, constantly empowering us, constantly directing our paths. It's Him, always and ever ONLY Him. Because He is all we need. 

He. Is. All. We. Need. And He loves us.
Joy trumps torture.

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