Monday, March 3, 2014

Holiness, Perfection, and the Unraveling of an Ideal

My son made a comment while I was talking to him before bed. I can't remember what it was exactly, but it elicited a question from me.

"What does it take to be saved?"

"Be a good person. Don't do bad things.."

My heart hurt at these answers.  "No, Bud, not at all." (Yes, I say things like "Bud", especially when I'm getting all fatherly.)  I know why he gave them, and it wrenches me inside.

"Do the things God likes? Have God's Spirit in you?" Now he's giving answers with a questioning tone. He's searching for the answer I'm looking for. 

"Sort of."

Then I bring out the big guns.  I lock and load John (I almost inserted "freaking" right here. Felt like the right vibe. Couldn't bring myself to do it, and so I instead write this entirely too long aside that completely ruins said vibe. Continue.) 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  I even went old school KJV (which, as it happens, always reminds me of saying KGB).

This is not the first time I've had similar conversations with my son. He was born into a fundamentalist church where the way to get into or out of the good graces of God was solely dependent on how closely you fit into the mold of that particular church. Every sermon for us, and every Sunday School class for him, emphasized the local news headline message coming from the pulpit. (For those who don't know, that particular style is summed up in Pay Close Attention to This or YOU WILL DIE!

My wife and I almost caved in that environment. We came so very close to just stopping. Was this really the way the omnipotent master of the universe was wanting to communicate? Did I really have to condemn so many great and wonderful people that had touched my life to eternal damnation because they didn't meet a certain level of belief. We wrestled for years before leaving, and when we finally did we took some baggage with us.

And my wonderful, introspective, passionate, hilarious, and literal son is also carrying it. He's living with assumptions about Salvation that need to be unraveled. Complications that need to be simplified. I tell him what I've found. That it's about belief. It's about an acceptance of our unrighteousness and of Christ's ability to make up for it.

I remember what he said now. (Non-chronological representation of the facts. That's how I roll) He was asking me about a book of his, ostensibly a Bible, that we'd gotten rid of when we found that it had some inappropriately vulgar visual representations (at least for the Children it was being marketed to). He was saying that if he had it he wouldn't be able to call it "The Holy Bible". (which, btw, is exactly what he calls his Bible)  I explained to him that Holy is just a term to indicate something separated for the purpose of God. It's not the object that is Holy, it's the usage.  

We are commanded in 1 Peter to be Holy, though we are incapable of being so. We are told be Perfect, though none is perfect and all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. HOW??? How do we be good enough? 

That's the question everyone is asking themselves. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Humanist, etc., etc., you are asking yourself that question. Maybe your god is entertainment, or maybe your vanity.  Maybe football, writing, SciFi, eating, ping pong, Politics, or TV. We are all asking ourselves how to be good enough.

And I finally realize that Christ has always answered each person exactly the same way.  

You don't have to be.

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