Reprocessed anger

We’ve been talking here about God’s kingdom. God’s plan is to bring everything under his sovereign rule, but God has been doing it slowly, over centuries, so everyone will have the chance to come in.

One of the Bible’s enduring images of the kingdom is of a feast, where everyone will sit down to eat with God at the end of history. In Luke 14, Jesus builds on this image with the parable of a master who held a great banquet. Invitations had gone out and been accepted. When the big day arrived, guests were invited to take their places, but one by one they began to make excuses. The excuses were calculated to insult the host and keep the banquet from taking place.

What would the master do?

Instead of retaliating for this public humiliation, the master sent his servant out to bring in the poor, the blind and the lame. The master commanded this be done until his house was full.

Middle Eastern scholar, the late Ken Bailey, said the master “reprocessed his anger into grace.”

I just checked several news websites, and there were at least a dozen reports of insults along with the inevitable angry responses. Anger is the air we breathe.

The thing is, genuine injustice is a legitimate cause for anger; the master in Jesus’ parable had every right to retaliate. Instead he opted for costly grace. He used the anger generated by the insult to reach the folks who never could have imagined being invited to the feast. 

Jesus has sent out the invitations and the kingdom feast will soon begin.

Could it be that we are so used to anger, and being angry, that we don’t know how to respond when we experience his costly grace? 

Indulgence

This week we observe “Reformation Sunday.” Church tradition says that 500 years ago this week, a priest named Martin Luther nailed “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther objected to the Roman Catholic practice of selling “indulgences,” essentially a way of buying one’s way out of the consequences of sin. Luther argued it was wrong to make people pay for what God grants for free. Humans can do nothing to earn salvation; rather salvation is a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

But here’s why we still need reformation:

Deep down, we find the idea of indulgences attractive. Indulgences were degrading and came down hardest on the poor, but at least they gave human beings the sense of being in charge. If we can buy our way out of hell, no matter the cost, it means we’re in charge of our salvation.

Modern North Americans have a different indulgence problem.

Most of us have been indulged our whole lives. From the time we were old enough to hold a spoon, our preferences have been consulted. Life is all about us. We have the illusion that we’re in control of our lives. What need do we have of God, the church, or the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ?