As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain… I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6.1-2
Waiting for Change
If we had a nickel for every person who says, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” we could all retire. If we had a dime for every time someone say he/she plans to reunite with the Church as soon as it changes its stance against homosexuals or women priests or [fill in the blank], we’d be wealthy for life. While we empathize with the pain and disillusionment people have wrongfully experienced under the guise of Christianity, shouldn’t we wonder how much of this “waiting for change” position is legitimately thought out and how much is a ready-made excuse for not taking the initiative to follow Jesus?
Disenfranchised Christians are willing to wait for change because they believe they can wait. They know God’s grace is everlasting. He will welcome them back once they overcome their resentment and/or His people repent from their ways. Yet Paul’s message in 2 Corinthians 6.1-2 challenges this idea. Waiting to reactivate one’s faith is nothing less than receiving “God’s grace in vain.” It’s relying on His love and mercy to be there when we get ready without accepting our immediate responsibility to express it. Paul urges us not to wait for more favorable conditions. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor,” he writes. “Now is the day of salvation.” Confidence that God’s love and grace will be given as freely tomorrow as it is today makes today the day to embrace it. Waiting for others to accept us before we accept the fullness of God’s grace is, well, silly.
Fear in Drag
Resentment of Christian institutions and people who reject us seems logical until we consider what it is and who suffers because of it. Basically, resentment amounts to fear in drag. It camouflages insecurities about not being accepted, recognized, or appreciated, attempting to turn the tables on hostility by saying, “You don’t want me? Well, I don’t want you, either.” If this were a sixth-grade sleepover we didn’t get invited to, then perhaps isolating ourselves from the crowd might be understandable. But this is God’s grace—a life built on His love and light, an existence that grows daily in His wisdom and power. Removing ourselves from active discipleship because other disciples push us aside hurts us. Our resentment concedes to their error and, worse yet, accedes to their opinion we don’t—and can’t—belong to Christ. It proves we’re afraid of them.
This isn’t about them, though. It’s about Him and us. They only enter the picture when our fear of being rejected (again) or hurt (again) breeds resentment of them and the One they claim to represent. Actually, strike that last phrase. If we have one sliver of understanding about God and His love, we know their actions bear no resemblance to Him. We may believe we look and sound tough when we criticize other Christians for hating us and casting us aside. But after the show’s over and makeup comes off, all we’re left with is our fear.
What—or who—are we afraid of? Did God go on sabbatical? Has His sight grown too dim to look at our hearts? Has He got too feeble to manage His affairs? Surely, we know better. Then why do we let self-appointed judges and gatekeepers block our access to His grace or tell us what He thinks? Don’t we realize the fallacy we perpetuate when we think abandoning Christ will free us from Christian bigotry? If that were possible, why are so many of us still resentful and afraid? We’re no freer now than when we faced religious hostility head-on. But we’re a great deal poorer because we’ve surrendered the greatest opportunity life can afford—following Jesus.
Psalm 118.5-8 speaks directly to any estranged believer who’s boxed in by fear and resentment. It’s a passage we all should take to heart, because sooner or later, each of us encounters someone whose beliefs differ sharply from ours. None of us is exempt from feeling cornered, helpless, and afraid when another Christian disputes our right to follow Christ or the legitimacy of our witness. “In my anguish I cried to the LORD,” the psalmist writes, “and he answered by setting me free. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.”
Hiding fear of rejection in resentment or seeking shelter in gauzy tents of “spirituality” won’t free us from callous prejudice that shoves us aside. I can personally attest when we lay the anguish and agony of rejection before God, He does indeed set us free. He makes His presence known once again in our lives. Fear of what others do or say to us vanishes. We take refuge in Him, trusting His promises rather than manmade opinions. In John 6.37, Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” Anyone bold enough to contradict Him is nobody we should listen to. They’re not to be feared. What’s more, waiting until they change their minds only delays retrieving what we’ve lost to their misguided opinions. Now is the time of God’s favor, Paul stresses. Now is the day of salvation. Not later—now.
Resentment masks fear, encourages us to wait for change, and wastes time we need to regain what we lost. Now is the time of God’s favor. Now.
(Tomorrow: Wonderful Things)