I'm no theologian, that's for sure. But something has been on my mind so much lately I thought I'd share my thoughts.
I read a fantastic excerpt from a biography on U2s lead man Bono today. Here's the link...you should read it, too.
I love his thoughts on grace vs. karma. I love what appears to be his genuine love for Jesus Christ and who He his character is. And NONE of it struck me as "churchy" at all. His view seems so opposite of what so many people believe Jesus and "the church" is all about. And unfortunately, there's a big chunk of "the church" that paints a really legalistic picture of Jesus and Christianity.
Rules, regulations, do this and don't do that. Go confess. Don't swear. Don't drink. Or feel really guilty if you do. Be in church every Sunday. Have your life together. Get your act together. Wear a smile. Tithe...or else. RESTRICTIONS. CONTROL. A world drowning in religion with no relationship. Totally sounds like something you want to sign up for, doesn't it?
I'm hear to tell ya that my Jesus = FREEDOM. He restores me. He makes me whole.
"The LORD is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He RESTORES MY SOUL." - Psalm 23:1-3a
When I sit and am at peace with Him, I have an overwhelming sense of freedom. I have literally broken out into song before, singing, at the top of my lungs:
"My chains are gone, I've been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood, His Mercy reigns. Unending love, amazing grace." - the bridge in Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace"
Sure, as a believer of Christ, I am held to different standards because I know Him and am called to become more like Him. But that does not mean it is a life full of restrictions and rules. One of my favorite things to do is sit around the table, drinking wine and breaking bread with friends. There is no guilt or wrongdoing in that. Can I curse like a sailor? For sure. Should I? No. Am I forever damned to hell for it? Nope.
And that calling to "no longer conform to the ways of this world" (Romans 12:2) is not a burden to me. The more I learn about His character, the more I want to BE JUST LIKE HIM.
And as far as guilt and shame are concerned..."There is therefore now no condemnation (guilt) for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." - Romans 8:1-2 - GUILT/SHAME does not come from Jesus. It is a product of our own minds and Satan. As a believer, will the Holy Spirit move you to repent? Absolutely. But He won't make you feel guilty about it. Correction from Him has come both gently and sternly, but always with love and reconciliation.
The more I sit with Him, read about Him, have life experiences with Him, the more I see that He is a full of grace, hope, restoration, and relationship. He doesn't boom from Heaven, towering over me like an abusive father, yelling "Get to church ON TIME you slacker!" Quite frankly, sometimes we miss church because we need a break. And even then, He doesn't say, "Seriously?! I'm so disappointed in you for not going to church." Absolutely not. It is then I feel Him tug on my heart, saying, "Child, come to me and I will give you rest. Sleep in. Come to me when you are ready...because I'm patiently waiting." No guilt, no shame. Still...Freedom.
I hope that as the body of believers of Jesus Christ, we show His character to others by loving them, showing them His kindness and grace. Showing them joy when we face trials, but honesty as we struggle. There is no perfection needing to be obtained. Jesus did away with that at the Cross when He took on our sins to give us freedom. Freedom in this world and freedom for all eternity when we believe.
"Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff. That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s-. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiousity." - Bono
High five to Bono. I love people who say what they think.
Jesus isn't about rules or perfection. He really doesn't ask anything more of us than to come to Him just as we are: flawed, broken, screw-ups and all. He takes it from there. There will continue to be flaws, screw-ups, and dark times, but He remains there, through it all, and covers us with His beautiful, loving Grace.