most of us actually prefer punishment. we prefer a bit of penance. a gentle self-flogging actually feels good in some twisted sort of way. to fail and not have to bear the consequences feels cheap…weak. it feels out of balance – like we owe somebody something. i slap you; you slap me and we’re all square. i say an unkind word to my spouse; i vacuum the house…all square. i promise God I’ll have a quiet time every day this week…i fail…so i spend 3 hours on Friday making up all the reading…all square. AND, i feel better…about me. that’s law. an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But that’s not where Jesus lives. If we want to follow Jesus, we have to live where he lives.
we need to humbly embrace grace. Jesus says, “I bear/ed the burden for your failure…your sin…so you don’t have to. you can’t do enough anyway. when (not if) you fail, come to Jesus. The alternative is penance. You can’t do both. We say, “Jesus, i hope you love me now…i beat myself for my failures, issues and sins.” To which you might imagine Jesus saying (for the sake of this metaphor), “Oh, well then, you don’t need me. You took care of it yourself.”
But if we choose Jesus/grace over penance, I feel indebted to him…like I owe him. Right! But we want to feel “all-square.” Sure we do. Especially if you want Jesus to love you because your awesome, instead of Jesus loving you because…well, because…he loves you.
Beware of practicing subtle penance, it subtly leads you away from Jesus. Have you fallen behind in your 40 Days agenda…or in anything? So? Remember, we’re pursuing Jesus, not a successful execution of our 40 Days plan. The plan is to meet with Him…where HE lives. Thank Jesus for his love and grace in your life…and just pick up where you left off. And enjoy him in the rich moments of grace and faith.