There is an insidious danger lurking in the midst of Christian organizations. It is a danger so camouflaged and deceptive that it not only goes unnoticed, but has found a way to be accepted as what is good, right, and holy. It is has become so honored that it is often accepted and adopted into the organization’s goals and mission statement. As it does, it destroys the very fiber and essence of the gospel. It distorts the reality of the Kingdom and paints a picture of God that is counter to all that He is and does.
What could be so rogue and deceptive? What could cause such destruction? What could be missed and adopted as good and holy? It is the belief that favor comes from God based on our behavior. It is idea that greater blessing comes to those who do good and condemnation comes to those who do wrong.
The message of Jesus was completely counter to this idea. He taught men to love their enemies, do good to those hate them, pray for those who spitefully use them, and to offer the other cheek to those who strike them. That is radically different that performance based behavior. That is good being given to those who do wrong. The ways of God are foreign to the ways of this world and to what is natural within us.
Yet woven into the fiber of countless Christian schools, businesses, and organizations is the teaching that greater favor from God awaits those who perform.
In Christian schools, students are challenged to higher grades, better behavior, and spiritual achievements under the promise that these actions will make them more pleasing to God. Those who achieve the ultimate of Christian standards are given awards recognizing them as better Christians. Those who don’t perform up to standard are said to bring upon themselves the disappointment, sadness, and anger of God.
In Christian businesses, including larger churches, employees are challenged to greater service, diligence, and sacrifice under the promise that these actions will make them more pleasing to God. The antithesis of these are said to bring the judgment of God. Those who don’t achieve are motivated by guilt, pressure, and the necessity of improving their performance for the sake of God’s favor.
Don’t get me wrong, it is good for students to work toward better behavior and improved grades. It is good for employees to work harder and serve more diligently. It is good to strive toward a standard and healthy to press toward a goal. But let us be very careful about how we view our progress toward those goals with how God’s heart toward us.
The cross of Jesus shows that God relates to man in a way that is far different than we know or understand. He does not love and show favor based on performance. He does something uncharacteristic. He does something upside down. He does something that is higher and far above the ways of man.
He loved us while we were still sinners.
He reconciled us to Himself while we were still enemies.
He shows greater grace where there is great sin.
He forgives before we ask for forgiveness.
That is far different than the ways of man. That is counter to the idea that favor comes based on behavior. He gives favor in the presence of bad behavior. He lavishes and overwhelms love and grace upon the undeserving. He does not give greater favor based on greater performance. He gives grace and says that it is ours apart from performance. He says it is ours by faith. It is available to those who come to end of their efforts to earn. It is received by the humble.
The Gospel is the good news that there is forgiveness, love, freedom, and release from our guilt. It is the message that something has done for us that we could never do for ourselves. It is the overwhelming news that there is no more condemnation and no more pressure to have to perform to earn favor.
So what are Christian schools, businesses, and organizations to do?
Again, it is good and right to press toward a goal of good grades, better behavior, and improved performance. But let us be clear. These in no way earn a greater smile, favor, or blessing from God. He has already shown the fullness of His favor through His Son. He has poured out every spiritual blessing through Jesus. We don’t honor Him so He will honor us. We don’t bless Him so He will bless us. We don’t cause Him to frown because we fail. We don’t cause Him to be disappointed because we didn’t measure up.
The New Covenant says favor has come and that it is ours to receive by faith! As we do, it ignites within us a passion to love and serve. Fullness ignites fervor. Grace ignites giving. The loved long to love. The forgiven forge to forgive. Those who believe they are made fully righteous seek to live righteously. They have the fruit of the New Covenant: the law of God is written on their hearts. They find joy in humility. The beatitudes of Jesus come alive in their heart apart from rule, pressure, and command. What they receive becomes what they do. Performance comes out of knowing blessing; not the other way around.
Imagine the potential of a school, business, church, organization, or family that lived to instill the wonder of the cross and grace. Imagine the power of a new generation of students and people who believed and received that they were forgiven and made righteous apart from their behavior. Imagine what would happen as they discovered the overwhelming.
This is the hope of the Gospel.
This is the power of the Cross of Jesus.
This is the cry of the grace revolution.