Friday, November 19, 2010

What Is the Third Option?

Philippians 2:12-13 tells us to “continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."  If we’re all seeking God’s perfect will, why are there so many opposing points of view on what God’s will is? If God is working his will in and through us, how can two people who earnestly seek to do God’s will have such contradictory understandings of what he wants for and from his people?

Last night, I attended a meeting where approximately 300 of God’s people, ordained ministers and elders, who all believed they were acting acting within God’s call on their life, disagreed on the ordination standards of our religion. This issue has been in contention for many years and will continue to be so for a long time to come. As I sat there last night listening to the debate that ensued, I heard many people speak passionately for and against removing the current national standard. All of them truly believed that they were sharing what God had put on their hearts as his will in this matter.

After the meeting, I began to think about Jesus and the Pharisees. They were constantly coming to him, daring him to publically interrupt God’s mercy within the confines of God’s justice. My favorite story is when the Pharisees bring the adulteress before Jesus for public trial. God’s law given through Moses says to stone such sinners. They ask him to interpret God’s will in the matter. If Jesus shows mercy, the Pharisees will say that he does not adhere to God’s law and if he condemns her, he has failed in God’s will to bring mercy and healing to his children. The Pharisees, in their limited human reasoning, can only see the two options. He is either for or against God's law or God's mercy.

But Jesus surprises them with a third option. “Okay stone her,” he says. “Satisfy the law, but the privilege of the first stone goes to the one of you who has never sinned.” Who among us has never sinned? Only Jesus. In Exodus 33:19, we are told that it is God’s prerogative on whom he will have mercy and compassion. God’s will for us is to be in relationship with him, so Jesus spares her life so that the relationship between God and this woman can be restored and renewed. He warns her not to sin again – not because it’s the law and the right thing to do – but because sin will again separate her from God. I have to wonder if last night’s meeting was a prime example of not seeing the third option – Jesus’ interpretation of God’s will for our denomination.

Last night, a proponent for the change of the national standard said that many of us just want this thing to finally be done and over with and the only way that will happen is if we vote for the change. Another said that to accept the changes being asked for is tantamount to worshiping an idol. We have a long way to go work out our salvation in this matter, but I am confident that we will eventually hear Jesus’ third option because, as scripture tells us, it is God who is working his will in and through us. His good purpose will be fulfilled in his power and in his perfect timing. Until then, we continue to struggle to work out our faith with fear and trembling and with opposing interpretations of the balance of God’s justice and mercy in our lives. I pray we can do it with respect and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter their understanding of God’s will on this issue.

About the pictures:
Deer Lake Park (November 2010)

No comments: