Grace Emerges

Sunday, October 21, 2012

No Pain No Gain?

by Brad Duncan

Again, I would like to bring up the flaws with righteousness as a higher priority than love.

It's kind of obvious though.  Right actions and right belief, without right love, are empty and without purpose.  "Righteousness" that is defined as right love is the greater righteousness that Jesus taught.  It doesn't make you right with God.  It makes you the kind of person that God intended when you were created.  It makes the world function.  Families, friendships, communities, and governments can prosper under the concept of love.

Love is in contrast to violence.  Actions without consideration for others.  Actions driven more by selfishness and power.  Actions that leave the person that commits them less of the person that God intended them to be, and leave others damaged by their presence.

When Jesus said "Give us this day our daily bread" in the Lord's prayer, he probably wasn't suggesting that God send manna from heaven.  He wasn't asking God to favor the elite or those with proper faith by providentially filling their cupboards.  He was asking God to enable society and people to function to share bread and goodness with one another in a way that functions to bring sustenance to all.  God can bring the rain (if we want to view meteorology as God's work) and the crops, but we must harvest it, make the bread, distribute it, sell it, give it, share it, and keep the world from starving.  Jesus was indicating that sustenance is our God-given job.

Loving actions and words are also sustenance, without which all of us will die.  Jesus taught this concept until he was blue in the face.  "Love God, Love Others" he said, and then explained what he meant using the parable of the good Samaritan.  In that parable, those pursuing righteousness (instead of love) refused to help the injured victim on the road, but the Samaritan who was not of the religious elite made serious sacrifices to help the injured man and make sure he was okay.  Righteousness was demonstrated by the Samaritan who didn't care about righteousness, rather than the religious elite who were actually obsessed with righteousness.

Now about the church the implication is this: if we build something that is an organized group of Christians, call it a body, a community, an institution, whatever, and we define the mission of that group to promote right actions and right beliefs in people, then it will naturally overstep love to do so.  It can lead to violence.  (see the recent post by a friend of mine).  Trying to make people better usually harms them.  And we know it, and we are okay with it, because we follow the motto "no pain no gain!".  I don't think that's right.

What's worse?  Claiming that the Holy Spirit is alive in that body (community of believers), causing it to function and leading it to improve the right actions and right beliefs of the body.  That God's goal is to make people more acceptable.  Claiming that God promotes violence instead of love. No, it doesn't work that way -- we are the ones mistreating others, not God.  Certainly God is only going to work consistent with his/her character and bring about real human contact, real human connection, real loving actions.  Not judging.  Not discriminating.  Not hating.  Not love by coincidence but love by intention.  If we say that the Holy Spirit oils the machine, and keeps the system running, then we are saying the Holy Spirit is ascribing to "no pain no gain", to make the people better whether they like it or not, working to bring good out of the pain.

So, again I challenge the church.  Don't make it about the righteousness, claiming that by pursuing God's favor through right actions and right beliefs, that we will achieve a higher purpose of loving people through the help of the Holy Spirit.  No, seek a greater righteousness, that does not seek God's favor, that does not concern itself with acceptability.  Seek a sacrificial righteousness that embraces humanity and tries to participate in it.  Helps the neighbor and the enemy.  Emulate the good Samaritan.  Seek to be like Christ and his teachings, not to curry his favor by saying and doing the right things.  Build your house upon the rock, and it will stand.

Join the revolution that Jesus started!  He called it the kingdom of God.


  1. I totally agree with your premise Brad, I would just take it one step further back and say that in order to truly love we must first be in an intimate relationship with our God, and that will enable us to love as we ought. We can only love to the extent that we feel the love of our Savior. To that end, the Church needs to promote learning how to love God more and more each day. As our love for God grows, then so will our love for others.