Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Law and grace and gymnastics...


So with a new baby and all, I have found myself the last few nights up at odd hours of the night trying to lull a wide awake baby to sleep. Last night, we were up until 12 pm waiting for the "feeding time" and thus ended up watching the USA women gymnastics team competing in the Olympics. It was a battle between China and USA for gold and they were going toe to toe until Alica couldn't keep her toe on the beam and sent the chances for a gold plummeting to the mat. If that wasn't enough, she fell again (can you believe it?) during the floor exercises and you could literally hear the reaction of the crowd gasp in disbelief.

I found myself thinking about the Olympics and really how unfair gymnastics is to the joy of sports. There are two sports in the Olympics which judge success by a standard of a perfect 10: gymnastics and diving. All the rest of the sports are determined simply by you beating or being beat by the swimmer, basketball player, soccer player or tennis player with whom you are competing. Your success is judged more on a curve, (you could play horrible and the person you are playing more horrible and you are still successful) and not by a perfect standard that anything less than perfect is less than o.k. Did anyone see the amazing flips that Alicia did after that fall? Back flips, front flips, turnaround things that were flawless. But, when she got off the bar, did she celebrate the amazing things that only a few in the world could do, or did she tear up knowing she might have cost the USA team a gold? You didn't need to see it to know what her reaction was. That elusive perfect 10 is the joy killer of sports... And then I was thinking how perfect an illustration that is to understanding Christianity. People try to live the perfect life or as close to perfect as they can, thinking that if they can do enough good to outweigh the bad they can earn themselves a gold medal in eternity (if there is such a thing and if that is the goal). Maybe not a gold but at least a bronze or even just a participatory ribbon, something to ensure that their life was not lived in vain. But if gold is the standard and the only option, Alicia showed us last night that it doesn't matter how many good flips and turns you do, it isn't enough. And likewise, if perfect is the only qualification for a holy God to get to Heaven, I am in trouble. Sure maybe I have done some good things, but the bad things, my pride, selfishness, laziness, and anger far outweigh anything good I have done. I have tried to impress God but I have only ended up like Alicia. I have found that I will never be perfect and it has killed me. But I have also learned (and I am learning) that the life of Jesus, the only one ever to live perfectly, and the death of Jesus, the perfect one taking my imperfection on himself it nailing Him to the cross, enables me to wear the gold medal of grace in eternity by the gift of faith.

Eugene Peterson in the Message puts it a whole lot better than I just did:
Ga 3:9-14 - So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith—this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.” The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: “The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that’s the real life.” Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: “The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them.” Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.

So, I enjoy grace today... and I thank Jesus that through grace I not only am able to stand before God one day perfect in His sight because of what His Son has done, but I also have been given the joy of desire to live holy and obediently and sacrificially for eternity so that I too can hopefully hear those blessed words, "Well Done, my good and faithful servant!" no matter how many times I fall off that balance beam...






1 comment:

aaron j gibbs said...

when i see a lengthy post by the power blogger steve m. allen i often take a peek, skim, and then save for a later time of reading when i dont have anything else better to do... :)

just read the whole thing, great insights bro. i watched that when it happened too, (it is usually on when i get home from work) and the whole time while you are watching those events you are thinking to yourself, "just dont mess up... and, are they going to do just enough to get by and not try anything hard because of the fear that they might fail or will they go big in the hopes that if they DO succeed then they will be walking away head and shoulders above the rest..." when she fell everyone DID gasp, i shook my head and said, "ohhh MAN!" i felt so bad for her, because she was really good...

thats an illustration i think that will stick with me when i try and live off my works... "am i going for the 10...?"