I’ve spent endless hours reading and listening to the some of the most powerful and influential figures in the Christian world. The believer in me longs for a logical explanation to what the scriptures posit, yet my inner sceptic denies such an explanation exists. And, in this case, the sceptic in me has prevailed. I firmly conclude that Christianity doesn’t make sense.
But religion makes sense. Do this, do that, never do this, never do that, then God accepts you. If you don’t manage to maintain God’s standards then you’re in trouble. This makes sense to me. But Christianity is different. It has God and it has law but there’s something more. The law should have the final say but it doesn’t.
I recently watched a sermon of a Christian pastor who described how his teenage son had gone off the rails, so to speak. He’d got involved in what his dad describes as “the bad stuff”. So, as parents, they took away his freedom. No laptop, no car. His phone was even assigned to the garbage can. I can empathise with their decision; tough but necessary. I regard this as a perfect analogy for religion: you mess up, game over. But the pastor’s anecdote continues…
Travelling as an international speaker meant the pastor spent lots of time away from home. He had given a special warning to his son not to continue misbehaving. Provided his behaviour and attitude improved, upon return the pastor would reward his son with a new phone. But the son did not change, in fact, his conduct worsened. So when the father returned, he sat down with his son for hours, discussing the bad attitude and behaviour. His son fully understood his wrongdoing. As the conversation drew to a close, the pastor told his son, “So go get dressed, we’re going to the phone store…” The son’s lips started to quiver and he broke down in tears. “But dad, I don’t deserve to go to the phone store”. “I know you don’t,” the father replied, “so go get dressed so we can go the phone store”. In the car on the way to the store, the pastor explained to his son,
“I have never, ever, ever, for one millisecond of my life deserved to go to the phone store…but God takes me to the phone store every single day…so let’s go get a phone”.
The son got what he didn’t deserve. It’s a scandal, it doesn’t make sense, it’s radical and it’s crazy. Yet, God works the same way. It’s called grace. It has been said that the word ‘grace’ contains the essence of the Gospel as a drop of water can contain the image of the sun. It’s Christianity’s curveball. When it looks like it’s over, when all is said and done, there’s a lifeline. And it’s Jesus. When he proclaimed “It is finished!” he meant it. What’s finished? Your failures and mistakes defining you. The apostle Paul summarises beautifully:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
‘If I act good, God will love me’. No. His love for you is unconditional, uncontrollable, unrestrained. You can’t do a thing to remove it, reduce it or dilute it. You can ignore it but you can’t get rid of it. There are plenty of radio frequencies to tune your life to, the ‘you’re not good enough’ frequency or the ‘you don’t deserve to be loved’ frequency. The pastor’s son knew these radio stations all too well. But what remains through the crackle of background noise is the frequency of grace, the announcement of hope, that despite your imperfections, you’re fully accepted in Christ Jesus.