Thursday, March 04, 2004

12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee 3

12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me): Finding Grace to Live Unmasked by John Fischer on Amazon

Step 3 - "We realize that we detest mercy being given to those who, unlike us, haven't worked for it and don't deserve it."

A few notes on the text: typical non-Christian idea of a Christian is a better-than type person. "Branding!" Image / Message "True witnessing is nothing more than telling somebody about Jesus." Admitting we're in Christ only because of grace! Christians believing facing sin and forgiveness is a something done in private so we can present perfection to the world.

1. Why is it unreasonable to be indignant when others receive something they don't deserve? Or when they don't receive what they do deserve?

Maybe the question is wrong, but I'll try to answer. It seems to be about our distorted human sense of justice and our insisting getting our basic needs met, our "daily bread," is something other folks (but not us!) must earn rather than something owed them.

2. What keeps us from recognizing that there is nothing we can do to earn our standing with God?

12 steps for the recovering phariseeWhatever our religious orientation or lack thereof, most of us in this country are basic products of that old-time Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism rather than of the basic Protestant Theology of Jesus and the HS.

3. From a pharisaical standpoint, why is trying to live out the law "easier" than living by grace? How does this relate to fallen humanity's tendency to live in isolation rather than in intimacy?

Our God's ultimate demand is not only the letter of the law but the law perfectly performed from our transformed inward hearts. God insists we become new people, which means truly giving up totally to the HS's inspiration and direction rather than engineering everything so we can get by on the outward appearance of our works.

4. How can our preoccupation with measuring what others deserve be a constant reminder to us that we ought to prefer God's grace to seeking our own reward? What if we get what we have earned?

First, I am not preoccupied "with measuring what others deserve!" We need to pick and choose this book's content: some of the stuff is embarrassingly right-on for where I am and some of it's not! But back to the question anyway. For me, this is a control issue. In some ways I'm not much into control, beyond having the discipline I need, but in other ways I want to call the shots and determine the outcome rather than leaving it up to the God of Great Surprises (to use Corita Kent's apt description).

5. What kind of people do you consider to be "undesirable"? How would you react to their sin being pardoned?

Although there definitely are people I'd prefer not spending much time with, I don't consider anyway truly undesirable – it's more of a continuum of desirability regarding work, recreation and socializing. But to take a different outlook, it's OK if their individual sins get pardoned, but don't really reconcile them – that is, don't make them even coexist with me in community, let alone belong to the same community! I am so weary of all the trivial criticisms, endless misunderstandings and all the refusals to see me and others as anything but someone who is an inconvenience and not a person with the same needs those "not like me's" have.

6. Are there things in your life that you have added to the law that you take pride in keeping? What are they? Have you in any way redefined "sin" to fit your own desires and perspectives?

Hasn't almost everyone redefined "sin"? A while ago Phyllis posted some excellent thoughts on the commandments, and how God does not qualify them in the least! She's absolutely correct, and we do tend to put our human qualifiers on the commandments, but then again, often the situation we're in forces us to take the least undesirable direction – not cut-and-dried, right-and-wrong, black-and-white. IOW, it ain't easy at all. God demands from us the total performance of the entire law, and we need to claim the atonement to cover the parts we mess up. But the catch is we need to acknowledge the incompleteness of our performance before God and before humans and then we need to accept the gift of completeness we have in Christ Jesus.

7. How can worship weaken the vise of our control? How can acknowledging God for who he is bring us into the enjoyment of his grace?

Likely you know fear is the opposite of love? And when I ask myself what I'm afraid of, my real answer is "I don't know!" I believe for most of us the only solution is long experience with God's provision and with God's control and the gradual loosening and ultimate losing of our own control. However, probably all of you have met or known few people who seem to have been born with an pure trust of God and near-total reliance on grace. Worship? More later on worship.

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