The Gospel According to Thanos- The Theology of Avengers: Infinity War

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Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, what are you waiting for?  Be warned that this post is a discussion of the movie. 

Avengers: Infinity War was the most highly anticipated film of the year.  The culmination of 18 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies led to this extravaganza which left audiences engaged, intrigued and ultimately a bit bewildered by the ending.  The final shot shows Thanos looking out over a universe that he has culled by murdering half of the population with the snap of his fingers.  As the screen faded to black, audiences around the world almost screamed in unison, “What?!?  That’s the end?  What happens now?”

The writers and producers of the film took an incredible risk to make a superhero movie where the superheroes do not win at the end.  In my opinion, the risk paid off tremendously.  I believe that the reason why this works is not just because it is an unexpected spurn of movie convention but because it taps into deep truths of life, faith and the Gospel.

Snap Friday

The ending of Infinity War reminds me very much of the original ending of the Gospel of Mark.  The earliest and most reliable transcripts that we have of Mark’s gospel, end with the promised Messiah, Jesus, being abandoned by his closest friends, brutally tortured and publicly executed as a criminal.  After his burial, women go to visit Jesus’ body but when they get there they find that the tomb is empty and young men in white are there telling them that “He has risen.”  The last line of the story says, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.  They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8).

That’s it!  Fade to black.  End of story.  Mark spends 15 chapters setting up all the hype and anticipation of Jesus being the savior who will provide a new way of life.  He tells us all about Jesus’ life and his death and leaves us yearning to see the resurrected Christ.  Then he ends it with a THUD.  If you had not already been spoiled on how the story of Jesus turned out and you simply read Mark’s gospel, you would undoubtedly get to the last page and cry out, “What?!?  That’s the end?  What happens now?”

We call the day that Jesus was crucified “Good Friday”.  It seems mislabeled.  But the reason why we can call the day “good” is because it leads to the resurrection.  It leads to Jesus conquering death and sin and creating a pathway for all people to experience forgiveness and eternal life through Him.  However, on the day that Jesus died it did not feel “good” to His disciples and followers.  It felt hopeless.  It felt demoralizing. It felt like there was a need for something more.

This is why Mark originally ends his book with a cliffhanger (note: Mark eventually adds verses 9-20 to calm down the people who were too disturbed by the lack of resolution. Hopefully, the fourth Avengers movie that comes out next year will do the same thing).  It leaves us crying out for more.  It leaves us clamoring for some satisfying resolution.  It leaves us yearning for a savior who can actually save.

I believe that the ending of Infinity War taps into these same yearnings.  Just like at the close of Mark’s gospel, we leave the third Avenger’s movie feeling somewhat disturbed.  We leave with a longing for resolution and restoration and the only way that this can happen is through some kind of resurrection!  Spider-Man and the Black Panther can’t be dead, right?  We know they have to still be alive to star in their next movies but we don’t know how that is going to happen.  The bad guy can’t win, right?  We know someone has to come and save the day but we don’t know who.  Perhaps the answers to these questions lie in theological concepts that are alluded to during the film.
InfinityWar.jpgWe Don’t Trade Lives

One of the major themes in Infinity War was the dilemma of trading one life for many.  Multiple times throughout the film the quandary is posed of whether or not it is worth it to sacrifice the life of one person for the good of the whole.  Each character ways in on their opinion on the matter.  Thanos is clear on his stance.  He believes in sacrificing a few for the many as His entire goal is to eliminate half of the universe so that the remaining half may have a higher quality of life.  Dr. Strange takes a similar path as he says straightforwardly to Tony Stark that he is willing to let Stark and young Peter Parker die in order to protect the time stone (and save billions of people in the process). When Vision offers up the option of allowing himself to possibly die in order to destroy the mind stone embedded in his consciousness, Captain America firmly responds by saying, “We don’t trade lives”.  The Captain highlights the value of every individual person and refuses to risk even a single life (unless it is his own).

The debate of the merits of sacrificing one life for the good of many is one that has a long tradition in philosophy throughout the ages.  It is easy to view Infinity War as a moral dilemma between Kantian and utilitarian philosophical models.  However, I believe that the tension is even deeper.  I do not think that the proper question is, “Is it worth trading one life to save billions?”  I think that the better question is, “Is it possible for one life to save billions?”  If you believe in the Bible, then the answer is yes.

One for Many

The story of the Bible tells us that we have all sinned and are separated from God.  We are all lost.  The only way that we could be reconnected with God and restored to eternal life with Him is if our sins were atoned for.  The only way that our sins could be atoned for is if a substitutionary sacrifice were to take place.  Someone would have to die in our place.  The problem is that no one is worthy to be that sacrifice.  Every human being has sinned and is deserving of the consequences of sin.  There is no one who can make that sacrifice.

This is where Jesus enters the scene.  As a being who is fully God and fully man who lived a sinless life, He alone is exempt from the death and separation from God which are the consequences of sin.  This makes him uniquely qualified as the only person who is worthy to sacrifice himself and trade his life for the lives of others.  However, worthiness is not the only requirement to trade your life for others.  You also must be willing.

Thankfully, Jesus is willing.  He surrenders himself and He willingly gives up His life.  It is not forced from Him or taken from Him, it is given.  Jesus could have commanded angels to come and rescue Him from the cross or He could have used His power to destroy His enemies and save Himself, but He did not.  He willingly gave of His life so that every human being who ever lived would have possible access to freedom and true life.

In the book of Romans chapter 5, the Apostle Paul talks about the fact that the obedience and grace of the “one man” Jesus Christ is able to make all people righteous because of His worthy and willing sacrifice. He states, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).  He traded his own life for ours.

vision-infinity-war.jpgLooking for a Hero

The problem in Infinity War is not that it is morally wrong for one person to sacrifice themselves for the many.  The problem is that there is no one who is both worthy and willing to give of their own lives.  There are many sacrifices in the film.  Thanos sacrifices Gamora in order to obtain the soul stone.  But Gamora does not freely give of her life.  Thanos murderously takes it from her.  Vision is willing to give of his own life but Captain America initially prevents him from doing so.  Ultimately, Vision does sacrifice himself to destroy the Mind Stone but it is too late and Thanos undoes the deed.  Even though Vision was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others he was not able or worthy to accomplish it.  All of the would-be-heroes fail.

And so, the film ends with a disturbing sense of incompleteness that echoes our souls deep longing for resolve.  The reason why this blockbuster resonates (and infuriates) so many people is because it brings to the surface our own unmet desire for there to be resolution in our world.  We long for the wrongs to be made right.  We long for justice to triumph and mercy to reign.  We hesitantly but truthfully realize that no matter how strong or heroic we are, we are not capable of solving the world’s problems (or even our own problems) alone.  We need a savior who is both willing and worthy to give of their own lives to defeat evil and secure peace and freedom.
CaptainMarvel.jpgWaiting for the Rest of the Story

This leaves us all waiting for Spring 2019 when we will finally get to see “Avengers 4” and discover how Thanos is defeated, how our heroes can be redeemed and what happens next.  However, I believe that there is value in this “in-between” time before we get to see the big finale.  The truth is that we are all living in the “in-between” time right now.  Christ has come.  He has made the sacrifice.  He offers freedom and life to all those who receive it from Him.  He promises that He will ultimately defeat death and evil and usher us into a time where we are restored to full relationship with Him without any war, hatred or pain.  But in the meantime, we wait.  We believe the promises.  We know that total redemption and restoration is coming.  We are left feeling somewhat unresolved but also filled with hope knowing that this is not the end.

Ultimately, Avengers: Infinity War reminds us of the truth: the story isn’t over.  Our lives have moments where we feel like our existence feels incomplete, disappointing and maybe even futile.  But we have to remember that the story isn’t over yet!  If Infinity War is the last Marvel movie ever made, then it is a horrible, depressing failure of a film.  But it is not the end!  The sequel is coming.  Even though we don’t know what comes next, there is assurance of hope and victory.  If there is nothing more to our lives than our day to day activity, then our bad days are disastorous and our shortcomings are catastrophic.  But there is more!

Let this comic book film (which I obviously take way too seriously) be an inspiration for you to embrace the life that you live and hold on to hope.  All may look lost but the story isn’t over yet.  There is a hero who is worthy and willing to redeem us all.  I don’t know who that is going to be in the Marvel Universe, but I know who that is in our reality.  I don’t know how the next Avengers movie ends but I know how our story ends.  There is victory, hope and triumph.  May you hold on to hope in the one true hero and allow even comic book theology to point you towards ultimate truth.

Excelsior, true believers!

(P.S. This is my first time writing a post like this.  If you would be interested in reading more about how Christian faith intersects with popular film and books let me know!  Leave a note in the comments and let me know what movies you’d like to me to write about.)

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My Life is an Obstacle Course (not a Marathon)

I have great respect for marathon runners.  I know several distance runners who convey to me the joys of being “in the zone “and finding great exhilaration as they push past the pain and into the bliss of completing a long and satisfying run .  I am fascinated by the marathon, but I don’t think it’s for me.  It’s not so much that I can’t run the distance (although that is definitely in question), but it’s more that I just don’t find it all that interesting.  With deepest apologies to those who are passionate about distance running, I just find it kind of boring.

With that being said, I admit that I do run and I occasionally even run long distances.  More than once I have done a thirteen mile race (which is a half-marathon distance).  However, all the races that I’ve run in have been extreme obstacle course races.  Maybe you’ve heard of these races (which are sometimes called “mud runs”), that start out as regular trail races except that someone has scattered dozens of military-style obstacles throughout the course.  About every half-mile you have to crawl under barbed wire or climb a wall or carry a bucket of rocks or maneuver through a field of live electrical wires.  Now that’s the kind of race that interests me!  I think that I could run 26.2 miles if it was peppered with ridiculous challenges along the way.

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Why is that?  What is it about the obstacle course that appeals to me in ways that the marathon does not?  I think it might be the way that I’m wired.  I don’t view life as one long slog that can only be conquered by pushing on and powering through.  I view life as a series of obstacles and adventures.  Each obstacle requires a different set of skills and a different approach.  It’s not boring, it’s not monotonous and it’s not meant to be run alone.

When I view life as a marathon, I often get discouraged.  I feel like I don’t have what it takes to keep going and I struggle to keep the motivation to move on.  But when I view life as an obstacle course, I become invigorated.  If life is a series of short sprints and challenges, then all I have to do is make it through this one and then I get to discover what is next.  If life is about overcoming obstacles and not just marking miles, then when I am stuck there is value in trying new ways to overcome the obstacles and not just powering through.  If life is an obstacle course, then there is always excitement around the corner.  This is the type of life that God has called me to live.

I am inspired by each day that God gives and each new challenge that it holds.  We live in a very trying world.  Sometimes the obstacles seem overwhelming.  Sometimes it feels as if we are never going to make it through.  But I am encouraged to know that the path is not endless.  There is a destination and there is a purpose.  If you are getting discouraged on your path, don’t give up!  Maybe you’re a marathon person and you can be inspired to dig deep and just keep going.  If that’s the case, I applaud you!  But maybe you’re more like me.  Maybe you don’t need to just push through, maybe you need to take a different approach to the obstacle.  Maybe you need to have a new outlook and fall in love with the adventure that God has placed in front of you.  Maybe you need to know that it’s not always going to be like this.  This obstacle will eventually be overcome.

This is how I view my life and it might not be how you view yours.  Are you a marathoner or a obstacle course racer?  Or maybe something else all together?  For each of us I believe that we are called to “run the race set before us”.  Mine just happens to have barbed wire.

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Hebrews 12:1-2jordanspartan2

 

The Art Inside

Recently, I was looking through some old files and came across this journal entry I made over five years ago.  During that time, I was wrestling with the fact that I would pour all of my energy and creativity into preaching a message on a Sunday or pastorally counseling someone during the week only to wonder if it made a difference at all.  It felt that I was working hard every day but not leaving anything behind that was lasting.  I had a desire to express the beauty, love and joy that I felt in Christ but was frustrated that I could not create anything that reflected what I was experiencing on the inside.  I definitely still feel this way on some days, but don’t think that I could say it any better than I said it here.treebuterflies

October 17, 2011

I wish that I could compose music or paint masterpieces. To be able to express myself without words. My life, my feelings go beyond what I can cram in letters on a page. Writing them down does not feel like art. Punching on a keyboard and seeing black pixels appear upon a white screen feels so bleak. So reductionist. So unlike the songs in my soul. I wish that I could write them down in beautiful script and fill journals with deep and luscious thoughts. But when my pen touches paper, an ugly scrawl emerges. Barely legible to any reader, even if the reader is myself. The disjointed scribbles do not match the music in my mind and their garishness drains my inspiration. So I type here on a computer. How drab.

When I speak, I am alive. When I talk and communicate. But right now, there is no one in the room. Even when ears are present to absorb the words, they are intangible. They flow through the atmosphere and leave no trace of their existence. My art, my soul floating away, evaporating in the wind. No evidence is left. No galleries remaining behind. No books to be tucked away and discovered again. No scores to be replayed and to inspire more. Only words spoken into the wind.

To be able to write words that are worth reading again! Songs that lift the soul, paintings that bring tears. But I cannot do these things. Instead, I speak- if people listen. I listen- if people speak. Communication is my art. How strangely lonely it is.

At the core of it all, we desire to connect. The true artist creates something through a medium. He builds a relationship with that object (poem, sculpture, song) and then leaves it out in the open for others to come and have their own relationship with it. He pours himself into his masterpiece and it exists. The crowds might love it or hate it, but he doesn’t do it for the crowds. He does it for that one person whose gaze freezes when they see it, whose breath quickens when they hear it, whose mind is captured when they read it. He does it so that the art regenerates in someone else. And all of this is still a dream in the artist’s mind for he can never know what his art produces in another person. Truly, the artist creates because the art is in him and it must get out.

Something is in me and I don’t know how to get it out. Communication is my art. Like all the other artists, I hope that it captures someone. I dream that it takes root in another heart and reproduces. That somehow my joy, passion, depth might somehow transmit through the wavelengths between my mouth and their ears. And like all the other artists, this is a mystery to me. I never know what impact has been made within someone. But unlike the other artists, I have nothing left behind. At the end of the day, the painter has a painting- even if no one else wants it. It’s still his heart and his moment tangibly displayed giving evidence of his existence. He can go back into his room all alone and start to paint again.

But my medium is the air. My art requires others. Communication is not an art that can be done in solitude. My art is not just speaking into the void. My art is listening and interacting and responding and creating together. My art is understanding what someone is saying beyond the words that they use. It is letting God’s spirit take over and seeing in someone’s life what they cannot see themselves. It is discovering the perfect words that, when spoken, brings clarity to someone’s life. The art of expressing what is on someone’s mind better than they could express themselves. The art of revealing truth in a compelling way. Like all artists, I do not create but I reveal. I love my art. Praise God for the gift of it! How alive I feel when I am speaking alone with a person struggling in their life and God inspires my heart to share one phrase or one image. To masterfully find the words that speak into the mystery of their heart. To truly listen to them so that they feel heard and seen- perhaps for the first time in their lives. I love my art. To be able to stand before others and uncover truth that has been laying in the open for thousands of years but cannot be seen by the naked eye. To take something so complex and ethereal and make it accessible. To see the light bulb go on in people’s eyes. What an amazing honor to be used by God. It is all His work. His inspiration. But, oh, how fun it is to make this art.

But when the people go away, so does my art. There is no tangible intermediary that remains behind. There is no studio where I can go and continue creating alone. I said that my medium was the air, but I don’t think that this is true. My medium is relationships. My art is communication painted on the canvas of souls and lives.

All art is communication between people. Communication between the artist and his world. The physical artwork stands as the intermediary. My art has no intermediary. It is direct connection between me and others. Naked and vulnerable. The composer, the painter, the writer all interact with others without being in the room. That is not the case with the communicator. My art is direct. This is both an amazing joy and a crippling curse. I love the direct contact. The partnership, the immediacy, the risk and danger. To feel God use me. To experience that connection with another person. To be used in their life for His purposes.

But when the other person does not respond, my art fails. When there is no one around, my art is silent.

My art is always in the present. It is not stored away in crates to be discovered by future generations. It is always in the now. And this, perhaps is why I am often in mourning. It is why the moments of my most exhilarating artistry are often followed by periods of great sadness and discouragement. It is because the art is gone. Perhaps it remains in the heart of the listener. Perhaps they were changed and impacted and molded. Perhaps God used it to do incredible work in their soul. Perhaps. But I have no way of knowing and I have no painting to hang on my wall.

Lord God, my art is yours. All I have is yours. I lay myself at your feet. May I bring glory to you and not to myself. Forgive me when I see things only from my perspective and only from what benefits me. Open my mind to see like you see, Lord. Thank you for creating me the way that you do. Thank you for making me an artist and for those moments of being so fully alive through Your inspiration. Without you, I am nothing. I savor those moments because they are when I feel so close to you. I am so grateful, Lord. Forgive me for the times when I lose my gratitude and focus on me. My art is in the moment, so let me enjoy the moments when I am creating. And yet, I cannot be creating all of the time. So God, let me also enjoy the moments when I am not creating. Let me enjoy the artwork of others. Let me enjoy the artwork of each day that you create. It is not about me (so I keep telling myself). I do not have to be at the maximum of my function at all times. Come, Holy Spirit and take your place. Speak through me if it is your will. Reside in me (I know this is your will). Keep me from evil. Fill me with good. May my soul be deeply satisfied by you.

Finding Your Own Way

When I think of the great spiritual people of the world, I tend to think of men and women who spend hours in prayer and meditating on Scripture.  I think of people who have a clear sense of mission and are able to accomplish great tasks for the glory of God.  I think about all of these incredible people and how I want to be like them in their passion, discipline and effectiveness.  And then I want to take a nap.

After being a follower of Jesus for most of my life and being an ordained pastor for the last 12 years, I’ve learned that trying to be like someone else is a recipe for disaster.  I can admire other people, but I can never be them.  At times I’ve modeled my spiritual disciplines after other people and I have found that I keep looking over my shoulder to see if I’m doing it “right”.  Instead, my goal now is to just connect with Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, we want to be transformed and changed into His likeness.  However, I think that we have the idea that when we are changed that we will all somehow look the same.  I don’t believe that this is true.  God made each of us to be unique.  What it looks like when you become more like Christ will be vastly different than what it looks like as I journey towards Him.  Definitely there will be similarities.  As we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we will see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).  However, the ways in which love, joy, peace and all of the rest of those traits manifest in our lives will look different.

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I’m learning to fully embrace who God made me to be and not compare myself with what God is doing in the lives of others.  This re-focuses me on Christ himself and relieves the pressure of trying to fit into some pre-conceived notion of being the “perfect” Christian, pastor, husband or father.  I don’t have to be “great”.  I can just be me.

 

The One True Hero

Our world loves heroes.  All of the great stories from our culture are about individuals who stand up and make a difference against all odds.  When things are difficult around us, we innately long for someone who can make things right or we wonder if we might actually have what it takes to be the hero of our own story.

However, no matter how great of a hero enters the scene, the relief that he or she bring is only temporary.  The evil is defeated for today but new evil will arise tomorrow.  That is why the Greatest Story Ever Told is a story about someone who defeated evil for good.  Jesus Christ is unlike any hero before or after Him.  He was perfect and righteous.  His selfless and sacrificial actions won the permanent victory over death and Satan.  He is the one that we have been waiting for and the Savior of our souls.  He is worthy of our worship and our praise.  He is the one true Hero.  If we believe in Him, then we receive the benefits of His actions.  To receive His grace and life we have to admit that we are not the heroes but that He is.

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Here for a Reason

We live in a world where there is trouble, darkness and violence.  Many of us respond to it by complaining and living in frustration and fear.  Some of us ignore it and live our lives in isolation and denial.  But there is another way.  We can recognize that God is in control and that justice is His character.  We can live with hope and courage knowing that He will ultimately right the wrongs in this world.  We can be examples and representatives of Christ’s love and multiply ourselves by helping others become people of God as well. The picture is not bleak!  God is in control.  He has created you and I to be His lights in this world and to live intentionally and vibrantly so that this dark world actually changes.  This is why we are here.  Are we doing it?  Are we living lives of light and changing the darkness?

Unearned Riches

What if your bank account suddenly increased by $100,000?  You would probably be very happy but you would also wonder what happened.  If it turned out that someone had anonymously deposited the money into your account as a gift, how would you feel?  Probably pretty grateful and fortunate.  Would you use the money any differently knowing that you hadn’t earned it?  Maybe you would be more generous realizing that the money was never yours to begin with.  Or on the other hand, you might feel afraid to use it worrying that the person who gave it might take it back.  Or you might spend it all right away just because you can!

In Romans 4:5, it says “To the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.”  That means that when we put our faith in Christ, He credits our “account” with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  If we believe in Him, then when God looks at us, instead of seeing the paltry balance of our poor lives He sees the abundant goodness of the works of Christ.  It is not because of what we have done but because of what He has done.  We have unearned riches in our spiritual bank account!  What are we doing with them?  

Good News, Bad News, Great News!

The Gospel message can be summarized simply as “good news, bad news, great news.”  It starts with the good news that the amazing God of the universe created us to be in relationship with Him.  It moves on to the bad news that we turned away from God and were left with broken lives apart from Him.  Then, it turns to the great news that Jesus Christ took our brokenness on himself and restored us to abundant life with God!

Most of the time, we like to focus on just the “good news” and the “great news”.  But to fully appreciate the greatness of the Gospel, we also have to be aware of the “bad news”.  We are all sinners and we are all worthy of God’s wrath.  We secretly (or not so secretly) want to pursue our own desires that will benefit ourselves and our families even if it causes damage to others.  The truth is that when we are unhindered and give in fully to our own selfish desires, it isn’t pretty.  Unless we look our own depravity in the face, we will not acknowledge our need for a savior and will not fully receive the incredible grace that has been poured out onto broken people like us.

 Romans 1:18-2:16 talks about mankind’s sinfulness and God’s justice and wrath.  Most of us don’t like talking about God’s wrath.  However as we look at the whole picture, we realize that Jesus Christ received God’s wrath on himself for our behalf.  He paid the punishment and we are free from condemnation.  That is great news!  

Jesus Doesn’t (Just) Love You

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Jesus does love you.  But you are not the only one.

The most quoted Bible verse begins with “For God so loved the world…”  However, most of us read that as, “For God so loved me…”  It is easy for us to focus on our personal relationship with God and spend lots of time trying to improve ourselves to be better followers of Jesus.  In doing so, I think that we sometimes miss the point.  God doesn’t just work in individuals.  He works in communities.  His heart is for the whole world.  If God has reached out to you, it is so that you can partner with others and join Him in His mission of loving the world.

In 1 Peter 2:5, Peter says that you and I are “like living stones that are being built into a spiritual house”.  The purpose of a brick isn’t to be the most perfect brick in the world sitting off by itself with pristine edges and corners.  No, the purpose of a brick is to join it’s place with others in the wall.  You are a part of something greater.  It’s not just about you.  Following Jesus means that you don’t follow Him alone.  We become the people of God together and we show God’s love to the world by the way that we love one another deeply, from the heart.

You are not alone.  God has called you out to receive His grace and to live differently.  He has called out others as well.  Let’s stop trying to have an individualized, personal faith and instead allow ourselves to come home and be a part of God’s people.  If you are feeling alone, reach out to someone today.  If you are not feeling alone, reach out to someone who is.  We are in this together.

Holy= Perfect or Different?

I struggle with sin.  Pride, envy, selfishness, apathy and all of their friends assault me every day.  I try to resist because I don’t want to live that way.  I want to live in the life of love, joy and peace that is promised us in Christ.  But I don’t always succeed.  I get frustrated with myself for not being perfect.  Maybe you feel the same way.  Maybe you feel like you should have it all figured out by now, but you don’t.  So what do we do?  We can try hard to be perfect and then wallow in guilt when we fail.  Or we can decide that the bar is too high and tell ourselves that our sin is “no big deal.”

Or we can go another way.  We can receive the grace found in Jesus Christ and pursue holiness.  The word “holy” does not mean “perfect”.  It means “different” or “set apart”.  When we say that God is Holy, we are saying that He is different than any other being that exists.  When we say that we want to live holy lives, it means that we want to pursue lives that are different than the rest of the world.  We can do that because Jesus Christ has paid for the penalty of our sins and has made us righteous through his death and resurrection.  We are no longer bound in slavery to sin!  We no longer are condemned by our wrongful actions.  Instead, we can live in the freedom of knowing that we are forgiven and knowing that we have the Holy Spirit in us to help us move forward and make right choices.

1 Peter 1:15 says, “Be holy, because I am holy”.  This command may seem like an unreachable goal, until we realize that God isn’t calling us to live legalistically perfect lives, but He is calling us to live lives that are different.  If we are perfectionistic and gauge our self-worth by our actions and achievements (including “sin management”), how is that different from the rest of our results oriented world?  If we are permissive and let ourselves off the hook to do whatever we want (and justify it by saying we are forgiven), how is that different from the rest of our self-centered world?  No, we are called to be different, to live in grace, and to pursue righteousness by depending on God’s strength and not our own.  

I am a sinner.  So are you.  Jesus Christ offers us salvation and righteousness based on His actions and not ours.  Let’s not stay caught in the trap of finding our identity in our own successes or failures, but let us accept God’s invitation to be different and to live in freedom.