10 March 2012

receiving without deserving

I'm a religion junkie. It probably helps that I'm a member of the clergy, but I'm fascinated with religion, with churches, with how humankind considers its relationship to a higher power.  One way I satisfy this addiction is by reading church newsletters from all around the country, so easy to do now that everyone posts them online.

One church newsletter included this quote: “It is better to deserve without receiving than receive without deserving.”

Sad to say, this quote mirrors the American ideals of working hard to deserve the “good life” rather than the Christian reality of grace that a church ought to promote. Grace teaches that Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross serves as the ultimate door to “receiving without deserving.”

It's vital for American Christians that the Christian part of our existence direct and form the American part, and not the other way around.  One important way to underline this concept is to remember that nothing that we do makes us worthy to receive God’s grace.

To belittle "receiving without deserving" reflects not a life of discipleship to Jesus of Nazareth, but secular humanism. It sounds nice; it sounds like a humble path. Yet at its root, it belittles a central tenet of the Christian Faith. We receive without deserving when, by faith, we trust Christ’s death for our sins.

The quote isn't Christian at all.  In fact, they're the words of Robert G. Ingersoll, a celebrated 19th century agnostic (and one-time Illinois Attorney General) who ridiculed Christian beliefs and those who held them. Such a one could not comprehend the meaning of grace.

Christians talk about grace, but do we understand it?  It's a gift that we cannot earn, regardless of piety or sacrifice.  It is best to receive without deserving, when we receive from Jesus Christ.

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