We came to a fork in the road. The road on the left was “Pleasing God.” The road on the right was “Trusting God.” The road on the left led to the Room of Good Intentions. And a dead-end. The road on the right led to the Room of Grace.
In The Cure: What if God Isn’t Who You Think He Is and Neither Are You, by John Lynch, Bruce McNichol and Bill Thrall, we learn that pleasing God is simply not possible without first trusting God. Pleasing God places our behavior, actions and thoughts at the center of our lives. In other words, it’s all about us. While that may have become the official flag of Western culture, it’s not the official flag of faith. It’s not all about us.
Trusting God puts God at the center. It’s the critical step. Nothing matters, and nothing amounts to anything, until we do that. The authors of The Cure state it more directly: “Until you trust God, nothing you do will please God.” Pleasing God is not the means to the end. It’s a by-product.
If there is one underlying problem of Western and especially American Christianity, it is the determination to please God without trusting God.
For Americans, it’s cultural. We are the place where everyone comes to start over. Some come for riches, some for glory, some for political freedom, some for religious freedom, some for refuge, and some simply to start a new life. And America is the place you can do it. We could make ourselves in America, and not once but many times. This is what America has been for four centuries. We have been others things, too, but perhaps nothing has lasted as long as “the place to start over.”
In such a culture, the characteristics that matter include self-reliance, initiative, ability to take risks, the ability to spot opportunities, a willingness to change. These are all “self” characteristics. They are one reason why self-help books are always so popular.
The characteristics that matter in Christian faith are trust, community, forgiveness, and servanthood – the “non-self” characteristics. Christianity is about the other, not about the self.
As Christians living in America, we often translate what Jesus accomplished on the cross into “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” In fact, this is exactly how I led to believe in Christ. And it’s true, but it has limits. Our faith is not only about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Consider: If it had only been about Jesus’ personal relationship with God the Father, he wouldn’t have had to die on the cross.
But Jesus did die on the cross. He died for us, the “other.”
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading The Cure. This week finishes up our discussion of Chapter 1, “Two Roads.” To see what others have to say about the chapter, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by Alex Grichenko via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.