Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Myth that...Blog Post Series

This is something that came to me as I was considering my relative lack of Lenten practices this year.  I am practicing a fast, as I do for every Lent (this year, I am fasting from bacon, burgers, and deli meats--partly for health reasons in addition to spiritual reasons), but I had not arrived at an idea of something to add a spiritual practice for Lent--an idea that is increasingly more and more popular in the church.

And this "something" that came to me is a blog post series--something that I have not done since my "We Are Legion" week of blog posts nearly a year ago.  One of the things that has become a great labor in my work (both with folks inside and outside of the church) is attempting to debunk some of the more harmful myths that exist about God and about the church.  And so one of my Lenten practices, for this plus the following five weeks, is, in effect, asking for another fast for y'all--a fast from some of those hurtful myths that we tell ourselves (or allow other people to convince us of) about God.

This is what the outline of this blog series looks like at present:

Today (the week of March 9): The Myth that God Considers You Worthless

The week of March 16: The Myth that God Wants You to be Rich

The week of March 23: The Myth that God Wants the Poor to be Poor

The week of March 30: The Myth that God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

The week of April 6: The Myth that God Tells Us Exactly When Jesus is Coming Back

The week of April 13 (Holy Week): The Myth that God is Dead

I begin the series today with perhaps the most important one, simply because I cannot tell you how many times I have spoken to ex-Christians who tell me that the church they once belonged to ended up doing serious damage to their self-esteem because of this belief that they really don't matter to God or that God considers them worthless.  From Rachel Held Evans, who calls this sort of thinking "pond-scum theology" in her memoir Evolving in Monkey Town:

At the heart of pond-scum theology is the premise that human beings have no intrinsic value or claim to salvation because their sin nature makes them so thoroughly disgusting and offensive to God that He is under no obligation to pay them any mind...Pond-scum theology made sense in my head, but it never made sense in my heart.  I knew that I was broken, that I was capable of great evil and tragically prone to sin, but deep down, at the very center of my being, I felt as though I still mattered to God...To believe that people are inherently worthless to God strips the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of all their meaning and power.  It makes Jesus look like a fool for dying for us...  (emphasis mine)

It makes Jesus look like a fool for dying for us.

I would go even further than what it makes Jesus look like: it makes God look like a manipulative narcissist for, in one breath, demanding our worship and praise as His redeemed children (Psalm 51:15-17) but in the next somehow revealing that we have no inherent worth.  Why, then would God so crave the praises of a people whom He has absolutely no regard for?

It is a question for which I have no answer, and to which I believe there is no satisfactory answer.  If we are completely unworthy of God's attention and affection, I cannot imagine that anything we do would be worthy to God either because of its source (us).

To be clear, this is not me saying that we get more on God's good side based solely on what we do--sola gratia (the doctrine of "by grace alone") dictates that God's grace to us is freely and unconditionally offered; there is nothing we can do to earn it.  I could be the American version of Mother Teresa, but that doesn't get me an extra side helping of salvation.

But here's the thing: I have come to believe that this grace is freely offered to us precisely because God is invested in us as the crowning achievement of the Genesis creation.

It is why God sent to us the Son in the first place.  It is why Jesus walked this earth.  It is why Jesus spoke, broke bread, performed miracles, and ultimately died on this earth.  If God simply decided to write us off as thoroughly disgusting and worthless, why would He even bother with us through Jesus?

In other words, if God had no regard for us at all, then the mission of Jesus is rendered entirely moot.  It would, as Rachel argues, make Jesus look like a fool for dying for us.  It makes His dying for us utterly without meaning.

I would end by simply pointing to one of my favorite chapters in Scripture, which I based my Lenten sermon series on last year: Luke 15.  It is a triad of parables about how God--through Jesus--is invested in everybody.  Jesus may have a flock of 99 sheep, but He says that He will still always search after the one who is lost.  He may have a stock of 9 coins, but He will not stop searching the floor for the tenth.

Rest assured--those efforts by a restless and persistent God are done precisely because you matter.  Probably more than you or I could ever know.

God loves you.  God always has.  God always will.

And so it is up to you to return that unbounded love.

Yours in Christ,

No comments:

Post a Comment