The Little Legalist

So... I'm going to start using my blog to try to capture moments as they happen in family life. Riley's starting to come out with some classic lines and I don't want to lose them. Sometimes I'll blog them with explanations and observations, other times it'll just be the quote or moment as it happens.

To kick things off (with a blog I'm sure my wife would roll here eyes at - yes I can see that from here) - here's a theological  observation from something amusing that happened recently.

The 16thC Reformer John Calvin once said that the 'default mode of the human heart is toward religion.'

I take that to mean that we are, all of us, hard wired toward a works-based-righteousness approach to life. Whether religious or not we learn quickly that the way the world works (or at least the way we think it ought to work) is that nothing comes for free and everything needs to be earned.

There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Tit for tat.

This is why the Christian message of grace is hard to stay on course with. Many people (most in fact) begin with grace but need nudging (or firm prods!) to stay with grace as they continue in their Christian life. 

By grace I mean - undeserved, unmerited favour/kindness. 

'Grace' has come to mean little more than respectability and poise or perhaps a meal time prayer (or a girl's name) but 'grace' as the Bible uses it is rich and glorious. 

When the apostle Paul says - 'it is by grace you have been saved, not by works so that no one can boast.' this is how he's using the word; undeserved kindness shown to you is what has rescued you from separation from God. Trying to earn blessing by good behaviour (in Bible language) is called 'legalism'.

Back to my Riley-dote. Since we're hard wired for 'works based' rather than 'grace based' (namely : I earn through good deeds vs I receive as a free undeserved gift) it shouldn't surprise me to see early signs of this emerging in my 3 yr old :)

Riley was in the garden doing puzzles with his nanny. He completed them all and as a reward my mum (nanny) said: 
'well done Riley, you've done so well. You can have a lolly. Would you like one?'
'Yes please.'
(calling to me) 'Jez, do you want a lolly as well?'
Riley: 'why, what's he done?'

There it is. That's how the world works. 

Riley thinks 'I receive reward for hard work and so therefore everyone else should.' 
My little legalist of a son.

It reminded me in that moment of the beauty and incomprehensibility of the beautifully counter-intuitive  message of grace that turned the world upside down in the 1stC and has been doing so ever since. Not only have I received from God something that I didn't deserve, the Bible goes several steps further and declares that Jesus stepped in my place and took on himself the punishment for all my wrongdoing.

Grace is - Jesus is punished and I'm rewarded, and that's how God works.



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