bargaining with God

Category : God, faith, hope, taking action

My day started with being honked at.  Apparently I had committed the horrific act of coming to a stop at the end of my driveway.

I can only assume that they were honking as a “warning” to let me know that they were coming down the road.  However, it’s possible they were just cranky.  But this was not a good way to start out my day.  Few things get under my skin as quickly as bad drivers.  Since I wrote, “love your enemy and fellow drivers” I have tried to take a different approach to bad drivers.  But it’s never easy.

As I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that I need to stay calm, I followed this driver down the street.  Before long we came to a stop sign.  Of course we all know that a stop sign requires that we come to a “complete and full stop.”  Well this driver rolled right through it.  She barely slowed down.

That’s when I realized what had happened.  She had assumed that since she didn’t stop at intersections, I wouldn’t either.  Psychologists call this “projection.”  It’s the very simple idea that we project what we’re feeling and doing onto other people.  (This is why someone who is a compulsive liar always assumes everyone else is lying.)  She was honking because if our roles were reversed, she would have cut me off.

The sad thing is we do this with God all the time.  We project our own views, beliefs, and motives on him.  If you’ve ever tried to bargain with God, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  When we find ourselves in need of help, instead of just asking, we pray things like, “God if you just help me out now, I promise to give up drinking.”  Or “God, if you heal my kid, I will go to church every week.”

This is a very natural reaction.  It’s what we do with our families.  We tell our kids, “if you eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert.”  Or we tell our employees, “if you put in extra hours, then you can have a raise.”  We even bargain with ourselves, “if I go the gym tonight, I can have a piece of cake tomorrow.”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bargaining.  Even God says some things are based on our behavior: “to those who are faithful in the small things, more things will be given.”  But when it comes to God’s love and mercy, we can’t bargain for that.  God doesn’t hold out on us until we earn enough credit.  We can’t be good enough to earn our way into his favor.  There’s nothing we have that we can offer to God in some kind of exchange.  It’s not like God has much need of your collection of baseball cards or your money.  Bargaining with God is not only theologically wrong, it doesn’t even make sense!

Instead we need to learn to receive God.  To accept his love, without any strings attached.   God’s love is absolute.   It is unconditional.  He’s not like you and I.  He’s truly radical and revolutionary.  And so is his behavior.

How do you add more to that?

photo provided by flickr user Nate Larimer

living out a life of faith – example #73

Category : different, taking action, worship

  

“If you have people like that representing your church out in public, you’ve got a problem.” – Anonymous Upset Man

I’m feeling pretty miserable today.  I can’t seem to shake these colds I keep getting.  So this post is going to be short and sweet.  Although it’s a perfect illustration of what we talk about on R3: living out a life of faith, or as I sometimes like to say, “how to not act like an idiot.” 

A voice mail was left for LifeChurch.TV from a man who was angry at one of their members.  Not because this member had stolen from him, lied to him, or harmed him.  But because they were taking their time at a gas pump.  Apparently the woman in the car simply sat at the pump, oblivious to the man behind her waiting to use it.

Here’s the catch: if you consider yourself a Christian, you need to realize that you are always being judged.  Someone is always looking at you to see if you live the way you talk.  For some it’s because they want to know if our claims about God are true.  But others are simply looking for a reason not to believe.  Everything we do as Christians reflects back on God. 

Who’s knows if this guy had a point or not.  But what we do know is he blamed a church for this woman’s actions.

As we seek to live out a life of faith, don’t put makeup on at a gas pump, don’t drive like a lunatic if you have a Christian bumper sticker, and don’t stiff the waitress at breakfast before church!  Don’t be unChristian.  Just be aware of the people around you.

Sometimes evangelism is nothing more than being considerate towards others.  That’s not so hard, is it?

 

christian bumper stickers

2

Category : choice, faith, taking action

 

“He Dyd 4U”

Or at least that’s what the license plate in front of me said. 

Every day I seem to come across a car that has message like that.  Usually it’s a Christian bumper sticker or “Jesus fish” slapped on the back.  They declare that “Jesus loves you” or “put the CHRIST in Christmas” or some such thing. 

I don’t know what most people think when they see those bumper stickers, but I always have one thought: does the driver has any idea what message they’re sending?  And I don’t mean with the words on the bumper sticker.  I’m thinking of a more fundamental level.  When you mark yourself as a Christian you are declaring that you believe certain things. 

So what happens when your life doesn’t match your faith? 

In my case, the license plate may have read “He Dyd 4U.”  But it was the woman who was trying to force her way into traffic that I was focused on.  Her actions could have literally lead to my death.  And the death of a dozen other people.  Every time you don’t use your turn signal, or cut someone off, you are sending a message about Christians. 

And it’s not a good message.

You can say, “love your neighbor” all you want.  But when you carelessly endanger other drivers, well, that’s not really the way to live out your faith, is it?  How can people believe what you say about God when your faith doesn’t match your life? 

We think we live in a world where everyone knows who God is, but that’s just not true anymore.  In fact a growing number of people are growing up unChristian.  The message this woman sent with her driving was that “I may claim Jesus died for you, but all I care about is getting what I want, when I want, and that includes not waiting for a traffic light!”  In one quick move she confirmed for people that Christians are nothing but self-centered and selfish. 

We live in a world that’s already hostile enough to the Christian message, do we really need to encourage those stereotypes by our driving habits? 

If you’re living out a life of faith, every aspect of your life demonstrates that purpose – including your driving.  So if you’re going to sport bumper Christianity my advice is simple…

Don’t drive like a lunatic!