For God’s grace, which brings deliverance, has appeared to all people. It teaches us to renounce godlessness and worldly pleasures, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives now, in this age.Ti 2:11-12
How can I teach people to lead a godly life?
The pharisees knew the remedy: rules! And looking at the old covenant it was very easy to think so. More than 600 laws, with 10 outstanding ones, like a constitution. So they did what many do today: they added amendments. They made picket fences around the rail of the law, preventing us to fall into the pit. If I do not let anybody get even near to sin, how are they going to sin? Religion: religare, to bind up.
And they added practices. Repeated practices. When you are busy doing rites and rituals, you do not have time to sin. Religion: relegere, to read over and over again.
Along came Jesus and ruined the two strategies. His interpretation of the law was so different. Instead of outward conformance he expected more: even to think about braking a law was to brake it!
We all know teenagers. If we give them rules, something suddenly becomes interesting. The US has a much larger drinking problem with young people than Europe, because forbidden fruits taste better. Erecting more and more rules has us think about them more and more – thus braking the law.
Being busy, especially with highly repetitive things, has us wander in our thoughts. Bummer.
Today, many pastors, many Christians have the same recipes against sin. Go to church more. Don’t do this, don’t do that. We do not believe in this, we do not believe in that. Well, what do you believe in then?
Rules all over to prevent us from doing what we are not supposed to do. Defining what sin is. Defining which sins are greater than others. Defining who is to blame. Defining a process of restoration, involving typically repetitive tasks and more rules.
But again, have a look around. Never were there so many divorces in the church. Be honest, church is not known as a sin free place. In the world it is known as a place free of fun.
I earlier spoke about amendments. There are interesting things going on in our time. The US constitution has amendments. They list the freedoms of people. And they are under constant attack, especially since 9/11 and even more under this president. This mirrors the problem of the church.
It is hard, it is very hard to lead people with freedoms. It is much easier to control them. The easiest form of government is the friendly dictator. Many think that King Jesus is the prototype of a friendly dictator. And he would be if he based his rule on laws and regulations and according enforcement.
But God gave us free will. Only to take it away when the goin’ gets tough? If we think of the old covenant, it seems to be just like this. Laws to please God. Laws that were impossible to keep. And still, David – a man after God’s heart – broke them all and lived!
Even if we come to the conclusion that God in the old covenant restricted our freedom, along came Jesus and the age of grace. An age in which we are made righteous by faith through grace.
If God never changes – why that change? If God is One, why this schizophrenic behavior?
We try to remedy this the exact same way the Galatians did – forming a body of law for the new covenant. Thus both the father and the son seek to teach us a godly lifestyle by limiting our personal freedom.
Now, if this was the recipe of God and Jesus, why not go the full distance and just make us believe? They certainly could.
But then Paul rebuked the Galatians for going back to the law. The law is for sinners, he says, to teach them that they do wrong. But what about us? Paul shows that grace is a teacher. Teaching us to abstain from a worldly lifestyle.
Both father and son choose the hard way. Both choose grace. David should have been stoned, but through his repentance when confronted with his sin found grace with God. Because his heart was right. We live by grace.
Sure, this is difficult. How do I discipline people that fell? How do I keep them from falling in the first place?
Lead them into a intimate relationship with God. Love them. Love always births love. Love them without preconditions – agape love. That will bring forth responding love – philadelphia. And a maturing relationship with the grace giver will have them turn around and show agape love to others. And the world will know that you are God’s children because you love each other.
Grace and the acceptance and forgiveness it produces will have people run to God when they have problems instead of hiding. Granted, it is a long process. Leading by love needs time. Leading by fear shows early results, but has to be kept up a lifetime. Leading by love results in mature Sons of God that again execute grace and love. And true love drives out all fear. No more rules. Nothing that binds me up. Only a willing heart desiring to please the father.
Please do not read me wrong. I am all for structure in the church, and when I love the father I will agree with his way of dealing with me. This involves the gifts of the fivefold, this involves repenting to the ones you hurt through what you did. This even involves discipline. And repetitive tasks are a part of such a lifestyle. Daily, yes even constant prayer. Not forsaking the meetings of the saints. Reading the word. Fellowshipping with the saints. Doing good deeds. More often than not when we hear these things we are under the faulty impression that these are requirements of the father placed on us and necessary for our salvation. Let me say it like Paul: by no means. These tools are given to us for us. Intimacy is not possible without communication. And we need others to keep going, to cheer us on, but also to invest ourselves into.
Grace is a teacher. Have you experienced this?