Living in the Tension between Grace and Law

 In Sermons, Teachings
This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series The Prophets & Poets Mixtape

Tim Basselin - February 19, 2017

Living in the Tension between Grace and Law

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I drive downtown for work, which means that most days I pass a homeless person. Sometimes I’m speeding by and they are pushing an overflowing grocery cart in the opposite direction. Sometimes a man is at the light right after I’ve gotten off I-30, holding a sign that says something like “Lost my job. Lost my house. Hungry. Please help. God bless.” I tend to avoid looking him in the eye. If I look him in the eye, I won’t be able to hide the tension that is just below the surface. The tension I’m trying to ignore.

It’s that last line that really is troublesome. “God bless.”

The assumption behind it is that if I do what I’m suppose to do and give money, then God will bless me. God blesses people who are good, those who obey him. We’re going to see that in the scriptures that we read today. But there are some problems here. For one, what does “God Bless” mean for this homeless man? He doesn’t appear to be blessed, so does that mean he has not been obedient to God? And if we’re dealing with a law of the universe that God blesses those who do good, then if I give him money, I am actually working against that law. I’m enabling him to keep disobeying God. What he really needs is to hit rock bottom and then pull himself up by his bootstraps, and work hard. God blesses those who work hard.

This tension and these questions are very real.

It’s a struggle for a lot of us whenever we meet a person in desperate need. It’s a struggle in our political system as we want to create safety nets that help keep people alive when they are down on their luck, and yet we don’t want to create dependency on the system. One of our political parties focuses on one side of this, and the other party focuses on the other side. Most of us are in the middle somewhere. We feel the tension, and so when we approach a light that has a beggar, we don’t look them in the eye and the tension remains right below the surface.

Whether or not to give money to a homeless person may seem like a small thing, but in reality it’s connected to this enormous tension we humans struggle with between law and grace. Often in our thinking, this tension plays out as being between God being concerned about law in the Old Testament and then, thankfully, Jesus being all grace in the New Testament.

This dichotomy is false. God responds to the tension of law and grace in humanity with presence and promise.

Join us Sunday as we learn how to live with God in the tension between law and grace!

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