One of the dangers of being a “story teller” is that you can never remember for sure when you’ve told a story and in what context. My fear is that I will be known as one of those people who tells the same things over and over and over again… and I won’t know it. So if I happen to repeat something on occasion, please be patient with me. The old brain and the synapses just don’t fire like they used to.
Ellen’s father died in 2002… I miss him as much as I miss my own dad. He was a fun man to be around and I looked forward to the occasions when I was alone with him and got to ask him about his life, in particular his time in the war. He had a number of qualities that I really admired… and like all of us he had his “issues” as well. One thing about him that I just didn’t understand as a young person was that if he were traveling from Pittsburgh to York PA, he went on Route 30! Seriously, why would someone do that when the turnpike is available and can get you to your destination much quicker?! Well frankly it’s because he learned WAY before I did that the trip is just as important if not more so than the destination. Hold that thought for a few moments.
You likely know that there were several factions in ancient Israel by which Jesus was confronted on a number of occasions. The Pharisees, and the Sadducees were the most prominent. They were two groups of religious leaders who did not get along very well. They had very different approaches to the faith. I would encourage you to look them up online or in a Bible Dictionary if you want a comprehensive understanding of them. Frankly it’s hard to really grasp sections of the Gospels without knowing who they were and what these men stood for. For this rumination I want to narrow the focus. One of the things that set the Sadducees apart was the fact that they did not believe in a resurrection, or better put… they did not believe in life after death. There are contemporary Jews who have the same theology.
What is your response to that? What if I told you that I believe in a personal God but I do not believe in eternal life? Or that this life is all there is but we are called to live it for God? (That is not my belief, but for the sake of argument….) You might respond like this: “Soooooo…. what’s the point? Why do all this Christian stuff if there is no eternal life… or if this short life is it? EXACTLY!!! I have heard from contemporary Jews who do not have a theology of the afterlife that we Christians only believe because there’s a reward at the end. It is not our desire to actually follow God, only to do what we have to do to get “saved.” Frankly, I find that to be all too troubling and all too true! In other words, this life is only about the destination not the trip itself.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer… a German pastor and writer during WW2 who was murdered by the Nazis weeks before the war was over coined the term “cheap grace.” Cheap grace refers to Christians who do the very minimum to fall under their self-defined category of “saved” or “Christian” and rely on God’s grace to get them into heaven. Maybe another way of putting it: Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow God’s grace will cover all that I have done. Hmmmmmm… I suspect there will be some surprises on judgment day.
Are you familiar with James?
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
I had a lady very upset with me once… well I have had many upset with me… but on this particular occasion she said (and this is a direct quote), “You make me feel like coming to church and putting my money in the offering plate isn’t enough.” Uh… YEAH! She actually was listening, but didn’t want to hear.
If you are a “Christian” who is living the good life and relying on cheap grace for your eternal destination… well I don’t know what God will decide about you, but I do know that you are WAY outside of His desire for your life. I would encourage you to take a serious look at what you are about in your faith and ask yourself, “What are my works”? “What do I do to prove my faith”? Ask the old question, “If I were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me”? Church and money are not the answers.
Well, the Christian life is about the trip, not the destination… how is your ride going?
I should add by the way… on occasion I now take Route 30 on my way to York.