|David Thorpe, Good People, 2002, |
Mixed media collage, 75 x 99 cm, Private collection,
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London.
Catholicism was for confessing our total depravity, throwing ourselves in complete abandon upon God's mercy, and through a complex system of sacraments, pilgrimages, confessions, penances, and the excess merits of saints applied to one's load of sin, to escape hellfire and damnation. On earth, meanwhile, since people are sinners, they can more or less live as they always have, sinful, rebellious, greedy, lustful—in a word, barbaric—because if they play the game right and follow all the rules, their complete abandonment to God's mercy will save them.
Protestantism was for confessing our total depravity, throwing ourselves in complete abandon upon God's mercy, and through the possession of the correct doctrine of grace and works, by being one of the elect, and by prospering through industry and thrift, to escape hellfire and damnation. On earth, meanwhile, since people are sinners, they can more or less live as they always have, sinful, rebellious, greedy, lustful—in a word, barbaric—because if they play the game right and follow all the rules, their complete abandonment to God's mercy will save them.
Wait a minute!
What's so different about these two views of salvation that would've caused a split?
Essentially the views are the same and differ only in minor details. This was noticed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer among others.
He called both systems, ‘cheap grace.’
Today, because church members and leaders are alike so unfamiliar with the bible except in knowing how to quote it to bolster their opinions and practices, we have situations like the encounter between Christ and Photiní, the woman of Samaria. All discussion is diverted to philosophical points, just as Photiní diverted attention from her sin when Jesus uncovered it, posing instead a question about temple worship, and diverting attention from the fact that she was wanton.
Listen! From the Lord's viewpoint, there's nothing immodest about looking closely at our sins, since He already knows everything about us, and because He is only looking at them closely, as a doctor examines a diseased organ closely because his aim is to heal it.
Bad interpersonal behaviors, minor perhaps, are still annoying and unproductive. Yet, what is their root cause?
We are challenged to try to behave better. To justify from the scriptures what we are doing to remedy this situation we bolster our approach by quoting in full James 3:3-12, the passage about the evils of the tongue, overlooking completely the evangelical reason for this phenomenon. Jesus Himself says, ‘The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him’ (Matthew 12:35 NIV).
What is going on here?
Are we trying to be nice guys, or have we abandoned everything to become new men and women?
Reality cannot be chunked into tiny splinters and worked on, one splinter at a time. The fact is, it is not we who are to work on it—the problem of too casual, snappish, disrespectful, swaggering attitudes among ourselves. If we try with this approach, we will fail, because at best we will be nice. That splinter of reality will have gotten so polished, it may blind you to the fact that the plank is still there, as horny and rough as ever.
Do you know any people who live in the Word of God, who have made it their home, in such a manner that they don't even have to carry the book around with them everywhere (though they often do), and who don't think in terms of improving their behavior or self-image, because their trust is so unshakably in the truth of the Word, in Jesus, that they are content to just follow Him in everything, not looking at themselves or others (hence, not judging), but only at Jesus, who is the author and finisher?
These people can be found in the Body of Christ, but not always in church, that is, they may be church members but their real life is lived in that hidden place, where the Father alone sees them, and their actions, speaking louder than words, are sometimes overlooked by others, because they do not preach themselves, but Christ.
When we are seeking Christ in everything, we begin to notice these people, and little by little we join their number until we too ‘do good and disappear.’