There are more times than I would like to admit where I feel guilty about my faith. These are the times when I don’t pray enough, read the Bible enough or share my faith with others as I think I should. I begin to wonder what God thinks about this — does God look down from above and shake His head in disappointment? Does God put me on the naughty list?
God could do all of that, but I don’t think that He does because I am reminded throughout scripture that there is nothing that I can do to separate myself from the love of God. Even if I was to pray, faithfully read scripture daily, sell all my possessions and give the money to the poor that does not matter much when it comes to my salvation.
In this familiar passage from Luke Jesus declares that it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom of God. What God gives us is a gift and gifts, by definition, cannot be earned but only given and received. The simple promise of God is that God promises to love us unconditionally, to show us mercy, forgiveness, and grace. This is the heart and the soul of the gospel.
As comforting as this promise may be, there are times when all is not well with soul. I know I am not perfect in my faith, I know that I fail over and over again and yet I still receive a free gift from God. But the question that still haunts me day in and day out is, now what? What should we do?
The answer is nothing, we don’t have to do anything, but that brings up so many more questions. Does that mean that we can ignore God? Does that mean that we don’t have to pray, go to church, read the Bible or love our neighbors as our selves?
Quite simply, “No”
Jesus tells us what this does look like, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” then he goes on to instruct, “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Why, we might ask; to which Jesus answers, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Ahhhh, well that makes sense, however this totally goes against our “don’t do anything” mantra. It falls apart, of course, because it was based on a faulty premise. Saying “we don’t have to do anything” to earn God’s love is not the same at all as saying “we shouldn’t do anything” in response to God’s love. It is our nature to do something, because like it or not we are always doing something. So the question is not will we do something but instead what and why.
Because God gives us freedom and because of this gift, we can live our lives to the fullest. We are not only freed when it comes to our relationship with God, but we are free to live our life in the world. But asserting God’s unconditional grace is only one half of the story. We are not only freed from anxiety regarding our relationship with God. We are also freed for life in this world. This, also, is the heart of the gospel promise. We are freed from fear of scarcity so that we can be generous with others. We are freed from the fear of falling short, of failing, of being unacceptable so that we can live for our neighbors, sharing with others the good news that God is pleased to give us – all of us – the kingdom.
So this is your call in life and my call as well: to love our neighbor, to care for creation, to reach out to those in need, to give for the sheer delight of it, to forgive even as we are forgiven, to embrace the future, and to receive all good things in humility and gratitude. Why? Because we should? No! But because this is what God wants both from us and for us. But even more, because we can; because this is what God has freed us for.