Faith’s Dualism

John 12:20-36

“Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

(My apologies for not getting a Thought for the Day posted yesterday. Trying to figure out a good Sunday morning virtual worship experience for us has become quite challenging and time-consuming. But all is well with that. So, here is a longer reflection to start your day.)

Passages like this one from the Gospel of John remind us that there is a dualism, an “either/or” aspect that begins every faith journey. But these faith decisions are required on more than one plain of our lives.

  1. I first must confess Jesus as my Lord and Savior and be baptized. Then I must decide what that actually means?
    1. What does it mean for Jesus to be Lord of my life?
      1. Do I follow Jesus only when it comes to personal piety and my religiousness, i.e. regular church attendance, giving a little money to support the church (Jesus really didn’t mean that whole thing about 10% of my income, did he?), behaving well in public, etc. We put “church” in one compartment of our lives but keep it out of the other compartments of our lives.
      2. Or is Jesus talking about something far more inclusive? Is the light that Jesus is calling us to walk in supposed to shine through how I conduct my business? how I vote? how I deal with others not like me/us? how I invest my time and resources? how I establish my life principles and priorities, (after all its a dog eat dog world out there)? and/or to what degree I make my grounding principles in life the kindness, compassion, justice, and love Jesus proclaimed and let it flow through me into the people around me?
    2. Does my confession only concern my personal salvation and relationship with God, i,e. it’s all about me and my Jesus?
    3. Or do we truly understand the global and all-inclusive nature of God’s kingdom and the place we occupy within it? If this is the direction we think Jesus calls us to go, how would it change my relationship with God and the people around me?

My frustration, which I am sure gets revealed to you much too often, is people settling for what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called, “cheap grace.”  It is when people “buy” a minimalist fire insurance policy against burning in hell (1.a.i. above) by going through a set of religious motions all the while making sure their “religion” does not get in the way of the rest of their lives.

My frustration is not personal (and it is not directed at anyone at HCC!). It’s not that my feelings are hurt because people won’t listen to me. That’s not the point. It’s really about one’s deeper dive into the waters of faith. How can anyone partially or only half-heartedly relate to God and expect God’s blessings to be poured out upon them? If you do half-baked, half-hearted work at your job you can’t expect your boss to reward you for your slipshod work. Most likely, you will be fired. This same principle applies to our relationship with God. We must regularly reassess our relationship and all it requires with the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer God. We must ask how that relationship and the responsibilities it carries with it impacts our eternal (future) and abundant (present) lives? That’s why study, prayer, worship, and compassionate service are so vitally important. How could we ever conclude that a partial commitment (or cheap grace) could ever get us anywhere with God?

If we really love self and others the way Jesus commanded us to love, then helping to nurture/develop/expand our capacity and that of those around us go all in with God is every Christian’s responsibility. That’s how we experience the fullness of God’s blessing, in us and through us. I am not talking about an ego trip for pastors or self-proclaimed saints, or a box to check off on the daily cores list. This about fulfilling one’s call to love God with one’s whole being. It’s about the making the choice to walk in the light of Christ, to die to self and rise in the newness of life that comes when we truly give our whole lives to following the Jesus way to live.

No one has mastered this. It’s not about what we have achieved but how we are striving to follow Jesus in this moment, here and now, to the very best of our abilities. That’s all God asks. The Spirit of God fills in the gaps between our best efforts and the outcome God desires.

In Isaiah 6:7-8, we hear this brief dialogue between Isaiah and God,
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Isaiah became a prophet because he said yes to God and meant it. God did all the rest. That’s God’s MO. We honestly and sincerely avail ourselves to God by following the pathway Jesus sets before us. God does the rest. I have staked my whole life in ministry on that. As the old spiritual says, “God has never failed me yet.”

Be a blessing to someone today!

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