Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 (NRSVA)
…our decisions do have consequences and meaning in eternity…
Threat and fear is not transformation. [Christianity has become] a soul-saving society for the next world instead of a healing of body, soul and society now and, therefore, forever.
All of Jesus’ healings, touchings and salvations… were clearly about now. He never once said, “Be good now and I will give you a reward later.” [There is not] one prerequisite that Jesus ever has for a single one of His healings. The healing… [is] an end in itself and has nothing to do with earning it. For Jesus, all rewards are inherent to the action itself and all punishments are inherent to the action itself, but we largely pushed off all rewards and punishments into the future. I sometimes wonder if we clergy and preachers do not have an unconscious but a vested interest in keeping people co-dependent on us by holding [the] carrot [of heaven] always out in front of them. It is clearly ‘now and forever’ talk in Jesus, but we’ve made it into ‘not now, but perhaps forever if you play the game right’.
~ from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr
I can’t decide whether it’s stupid, wicked or just plain sad that for so many (especially we evangelicals) Christianity is about life after death instead of Life now. If Faith was just about ‘salvation’ (i.e. what happens after we die) then Jesus would not have spent several years preaching and teaching and healing and revealing the very nature of God.
I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture [i.e. NOW, not just after death]… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
from John 10:9,10
Also, for some this Life is misinterpreted as legalism, e.g. if I follow the list of rules I’m ok. This is understandable, especially when we’re young or have a new faith. We all think if we can be told what to do, we’ll be different. Sorted.
But grace isn’t about rules. First, there isn’t a list long enough that it could hold all of the ‘rules’ if they existed. Second, you haven’t got a hope of following all the rules if they were all written down (did a single person manage to keep the Laws of the Old Testament?). Third, Jesus made it simple. He broke it down:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Legalism is a replacement for grace and one that, I sense, makes God sad, because we can never live up to it. It becomes all about what’s on the outside rather than changing what’s on the inside. Legalism results in shame and guilt, or a wrongful sense of pride (see Matthew 23:27-28).
Fourth, rules allow us to feel in control. It is scary to give everything over to God and to trust Him with every aspect of our lives! But we must relinquish our desire for control (whether of ourselves or others) when we follow Jesus, because grace is free.
Trusting God is a bit like jumping out of an aeroplane wearing a parachute. Only you haven’t seen the parachute – you’ve just been told it’s there. It is scary! But the views are astounding. And you’ll never be the same again. (image from idpinthat.com)
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.