What I am going to say here is not only illogical by today’s standards, it is hard to understand because of what many of us have been taught. I know that we are taught that we have to, just try harder each time we fail. In many churches this becomes the mantra because the pastor and leaders believe they tried and succeeded, so the people should be able to just try to be better and they will. We have classes on how to be like Jesus and how to think like Jesus, or Paul. We are taught to suffer like Job and pray like David. Many of the radio and TV pastors I hear, make you think if you can’t do these things you aren’t as good as the best in the kingdom. Christian self-help books are always on the best seller list because we all believe that the next book we read will make us more like Christ. The problem is many people get discouraged and abandon Christianity altogether because they just knew they could never be good enough and they failed every time they tried. There are two stories Jesus tells that turn these ideas upside down.
The first is the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13, Luke 8, and Mark 4. This parable talks about seed that is sown onto different types of ground. Each with a different outcome, but none of which is responsible for their growth. The message of Christ is stolen by the Devil form the first. The second has only part of the message, so they die off soon. The third hears the message but is caught up doing life and falls away. The final person hears and receives the message of Christ and relies fully on him to provide for their growth and needs. The third people are like the people I referred to earlier. They want to do it all themselves, and don’t realize they can’t. They have been told Christianity is about performance and not grace. This story shows that the only thing we can do is believe the message and rely on Christ to bring his salvation to fruition. The seed has to rely on the soil and the farmer for everything. It can’t do anything apart from them.
The second story is known as the Prodigal or Lost Son. It is found in Luke 15, which is a good chapter to read to see God’s love for us. In this story the son takes the money from his inheritance, which is like cashing out his 401k early, and runs off to party and live the high life. After running out of money he finds himself slopping pigs and remembers how well his father treated his servants, so he decides to return home and hopefully go to work as a servant for his father. The father represents God and through this story Jesus shows the love God has for each of us. The father has been anticipating the day the son returns home. As soon as he sees the son, the father runs out to meet him and reinstates him into the family. The son was remorseful and only wanted a job in the barn, but the father wanted his son back. No matter how far you have fallen or how much you think you have failed, God wants you back. Not just so you can try harder, but so you can find rest in him (Matthew 11). He will pick you up and clothe you and make you acceptable.
We all fail. I fail everyday, but I know where I find rest. Do I try to be good, sure I do, it is a natural habit. When I try to do good and fail I know it is God sending me a message that I am not in charge of my salvation. St. Augustine said, “Love God and do what you want.” He wasn’t saying that we can go on sinning. He was saying that when we relied on God to change us we would only want to do what God wanted us to do. So I say to you today, “Love God and do what you want.”