Friday, August 26, 2011

To What Christians Are Entitled

We live in a culture of entitlement. Everyone feels he or she deserves the world. This is even more true of those whose parents have positions of power. The children of these powerful people often view themselves as more privileged, and hence, freer to do whatever they please. If you're, say, a daughter of a Hilton, you might think that drunk-driving would only get you a few hours in jail after you violate your probation. After all, punishment is for people who aren't the daughters of billionaires. In essence, it seems we believe that a greater privilege gives us greater access to depravity. In other words, the higher our status, the lower we can go. Our names our with the angels, so we are allowed to become like dogs.

I find that this same attitude pervades the thoughts of Christians as well, not because they are all children of billionaires, but because they are children of God. For some reason, Christians have come to believe that since they are the children of God, they are more privileged than others, and therefore, have a license to sin. It's that feeling that I won't be held to the same standards by God since I'm in with Him. He and I are good. We have an understanding. Christians are right about one thing, of course, they're not held to the same standard. They're held to higher standards.

Think of Moses for a moment. Here is God's man in the Exodus. God even tells him that He will make him appear as God to Pharaoh (although this is likely be a sarcastic statement, it comes true). He is the one who mediates for Israel to God and for God to Israel. If anyone has ever been in with God, it is Moses. In fact, the Bible indicates that no other prophet arose like Moses in the entire Old Testament. The coming of a prophet like him isn't fulfilled until the advent of Christ. Hence, if anyone has privilege and entitlement to "get away with" his sin, it's Moses.

Yet, what does the Bible tell us about him? It tells us that although Israel has to complain numerous times, commit idolatry in the face of God's law having just been given, marry foreign wives that would bring Israel to corruption and more idolatry, etc. in order to be prohibited from entering the Promised Land, Moses just has to sin once and he's done. And what is his sin? He hits a rock instead of speaking to it because he's sick and tired of the Israelites complaining. Now, it is an important event. God had Moses strike the rock before because He was still in the "signs and wonders" phase of delivering Israel. But now He was in the "revelation through word" phase, where the Israelites needed to know Him and be transformed through what He has spoken to them (i.e., transformation through divine word rather than through divine strength). Hence, Moses needed to provide that imagery by now speaking to the rock instead of striking it with force. But is it really that bad when compared to what the Israelites have done over and over again? Why is it that Moses receives a harsher punishment, one that seems unwavering and without mercy when others received such leniency? Let's discuss another example.

David is probably one of the most beloved people in the Bible. In fact, his name means "beloved." He is clearly loved by God (not necessarily by others) throughout his life. However, as king, David thinks he has the right to take another man's wife. After all, he's not only king, but he's in with God. They have an understanding. He's God's man. Yet, all of his lifelong devotion did not allow him this one sin. He brought chaos to a family and destroyed it. His punishment? His family would be in chaos and destroyed. This begins with the death of his child and continues in the breaking apart of his family for the rest of his life. His son rapes his daughter. Some of his sons hate him and try to overthrow him (i.e., kill him and take his place as king). His punishment is a broken heart for the rest of his life. He will never get a loving and stable family. All because he thought God would look the other way due to His friendship with David.

We do this same thing as Christians. We think God is going to look the other way, as though God is some sort of buddy in high places that fixes your parking tickets for you. But the Scripture tells us that God is harsher with his children rather than more lenient. He expects obedience, not an attitude of license. We are told the following in Hebrews 12:7-13:

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom [his] father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He [disciplines us] for [our] good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that [the limb] which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

God is harsher because He loves us, and we should know better. Our license to sin is nothing more than an attitude of hatred toward God. We are using the gift of His friendship to do harm to Him and to others, all because we feel we have a right to do so as privileged children. God didn't go along with Moses, He didn't go along with David, and He's not going to go along with you either.

But what of those who continue to sin without severe chastisement? The Scripture is clear that their unrepentant attitude evidences no relationship with God at all. Hence, it's a perpetual cycle, as people think that since God has not severely disciplined them, He must be good with what they're doing. Yet, the Scripture says these people should fear all the more, as they do not belong to Him at all. Hence, I would be worried if you have lived a life of license, and life is going good for you. That's a great sign in false religion. That's a bad sign according to the Bible.

To whom much is given, much is required. I used to think that meant you needed to use your gifting according to how much has been given to you. But I don't think that's it. I think the point is that the more you are in with God, the more that is expected of you. What we are entitled to is a more severe discipline as Christians, or punishment as falsely professed Christians, not to do whatever we wish. We can see this attitude toward the laziness in our theology (as though I don't need to learn the truth because I'm already in with God) and in our practice (I don't need to practice holiness because I'm already in with God). The truth should give us a sick feeling in our stomachs and cause us to understand our relationship with God as a privilege that allows us to seek Him more than the rest of the world in truth and righteousness. Our names are among the angels because we are meant to believe and act like them, and that is a far, far greater privilege than having a license to act like a dog.

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