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   [21 Apr 2011 | Thursday]

Legal Pad Religion

April 21st Blog

Gary Stone


From football, baseball, basketball, tennis, dominoes, bowling or whatever sport a person might participate in there is always someone keeping score. We want to know, when the buzzer sounds who won and who lost. What is amazing to me is that even in the body of Christ we have learned to keep score on one another. You will never see anyone carry a legal pad around with them as they observe you and me, but believe me it is there. When someone does something we like they get a good check mark, when they do not do what we like we immediately place a check mark by their name and act as if they are no longer significant.  It’s called keeping score. And in every religious circle it is there. Believe me.

I am afraid in the church world we have taken this idea of keeping score on one another and applied it to God Himself. For many a person, they envision in their minds that God sets on His throne, with a legal pad in His hand, putting check marks by our names when we do something that we think is good, and erasing them when we act up. How tragic that is, yet I dare say even you reading this today might even believe that. In religious circles it is hard for us to imagine that God accepts us just like we are, because we have a hard time accepting people just like they are.

I can prove to you that God the Father does not have a legal pad in His hand waiting for you and me to mess things up. Writing to the believers in the city of Ephesus, Paul, the author of the book of Ephesians listed several wonderful, awe-inspiring things that God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. We have been (1) Blessed; (2) Chosen; (3) Adopted; (4) Redeemed; and last, but certainly not the least, (5) ACCEPTED.  Now, here is the question I pose. Why, if God accepts us just like we are do not we not also accept people just like they are? Is it perhaps due to the fact that somewhere in the back of our minds we have a tendency to set our self up as judge and jury over people’s lives? We have a measuring tape that privately we place over every ones lives and if they meet the qualifications of the measuring tape we bring them into our circle, if they do not measure up, we do not.  How grateful I am this morning, as you and I head to Good Friday that God Himself did not do that to me and to you when He allowed Jesus to go to the cross.

I became fascinated recently with the word “accepted” found in Ephesians the first chapter. It means, “to peruse with grace, compass with favor, honor with blessings”.  You probably already know this, I did not so I looked up the word “peruse” in the dictionary and it means, “to examine or consider with attention or detail”. Put all that together and you see clearly, and with jaw dropping amazement, how wonderful God is to you and me. No legal pads. No check marks. Not even the slightest indication that if we do not play by His rules that He is ready to scratch off our name from His list. Amazing isn’t it. Far different than what we do in the church world.

I have to be honest, I am still working on this in my own life. I have that legal pad in my mind just like you do. I do not fully nor completely understand this thing called grace. I do not understand how God can accept me with all my shortcomings and hang-ups. I do not understand how He can examine me with attention and detail. I do not deserve that kind of attention. I honestly am not worthy of that. Yet, that is exactly what He does.  And that is also what he calls you and me to do within His body. Sadly we don’t , but He asks us to.

Perhaps as you and I near the time when Jesus faced the cross and get ready in a few days to celebrate the resurrection it is time we give people space in God’s kingdom. A Spanish gentleman stopped by our church building looking for a place where he could be accepted just as he was. Raul wanted to attend a congregation where he could grow in the Lord, learn God’s word, be loved by people and simply accepted. Perhaps if God Himself gives you and me space, maybe it is time for us to lay down our legal pad mentality, open wide our arms and allow one another to be just who we are instead of who we think we all should be. Stop keeping score. That only divides!!!!




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