Monday, April 24, 2006
What God has used vs. What is God's best for us Volume One
Lately, pondering the question of 'what I defend because God has used it' while weighing that against 'what does the Word of God say is the best thing for us' has kept me thinking.
What I mean by that, is there are tons of practices we as Christians often do, and we 'see' or 'feel' that God has used them to touch us or others. Frankly, I feel that I am pretty gung-ho about such things. I love it when God does stuff. However, it does not mean that those things are the best that God has in store for us. Unfortunately, I think it is often that we settle for them, simply because we ardently defend how God used them. We then have a hard time pressing in to asking ourselves, "Well, why did the apostles or Jesus do it that way instead of our way?" Too often, I think I dismiss it as mere 'cultural differences' while not embracing something Christ and the apostles meant to make clear to me.
For example, how we may practice communion. To be fair, and more than that, completely honest, I believe with everything within me, God's performed incredible changes in the hearts of people, performed miracles, (healings, etc.) in the midst of taking a cracker and juice to celebrate communion. For me to deny that should qualify me for serious professional help...I have witnessed too much.
But, where in the word of God does the cracker/juice thing come up as opposed to a meal? Let me submit this: never.
Depending on your translation, when Jesus takes the cup, He says, "Do this in remembrance of me..."
What was this?
Well, it was not only a meal. It was the Passover meal. In context, from the living Word itself, during a Passover meal, Jesus says, "Do this..." I also would also like to make note that in no translation do we see, "Contemplate doing this..." or "If you have a really large crowd, forget a meal, forget the passover, and once a month give them cracker and juice and say a bunch of pious words." Once again, He says, "Do this..."
(Remember, I seriously praise God for things in my own life I have had happen in the midst of communion with cracker and juice, I have forgiven people, had great reflections, seen mighty works done, etc. What we are getting at is, "But is there something even more by living the Word as Jesus asked?"
Borrowing language from Dedrick Bonhoeffer, (whose name I likely misspelled,) I am going to use the phrases 'cheap grace' vs. 'costly grace.' (In context, cheap grace is bad, while costly grace is what we should aspire to live.) To me, I am convicted of settling for only practicing communion with the juice and cracker/piece of bread format, which, truthfully, costs me about zero. Almost always, someone else prepared it, I walk into a gathering, we transition into communion time, and I partake, and go on my merry way.
What if I had to set aside a serious block of time, prepare a meal with others,and be intentional about sitting down with them to do what we were about to do. When we ponder forgiveness, I have to look all of them in the eyes across the table, and really know in my heart I have forgiven. I can't just generally scan over a crowd, and think, "I am cool with these people." I may have to look a brother or sister right in the face who ticked me off recently, and come to a decision point before partaking. The whole thing takes at least an hour and a half if not more, as we practice communion together and with God. In other words, I may have to miss the early edition of SportsCenter to do it. Also, I know the other participants rather well...well enough that our little quirks have all rubbed against each other, etc...leaving plenty of opportunity for forgiveness and heart change amongst each other. I submit that is a picture more in tune with a real or 'costly grace.'
For those who may think, "Man, that just gets a bit too close or crosses the boundary of legalism," let me submit this. I believe Jesus is love, and I believe He is mega-passionate about us to the point that for each and every one of us, He wants His very best. Why then, would He have said things in the context and practices of which He said them, not having that in mind. I think because the 'meal' method and practicing the Passover are the absolute best things for us!
(While not the direct point of this writing, other than Passover, I would encourage folks to read Acts 2:42 and other passages in the New Testament where eating meals together was a very common thing.)