I was sitting in my quiet-time spot, with my Bible open. Moments earlier, I had angrily yelled at my kids for some lame reason. (Angry as in full-of-rage-out-of-control Mama.) Now, I was filled with shame and grief: how could I be a follower of Jesus and at the same time be a mean mom? I remember telling Jesus, “I don’t deserve Your grace. Please don’t give me grace. Give me what I deserve: punishment.”
Have you ever been in this place? This place where you are consumed with shame. This place where you say to yourself, “I am not worthy of grace. My behavior stinks.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart.” (Note to self: it does not say, “Blessed are the pure in behavior.”) If Jesus is not just talking about my behavior, what is He talking about? What is the connection between what He does, how we behave and our hearts?
I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that when I put evaluation of my behavior at the center of my life – when my “gospel” becomes “do it better!” – then I know I have traded the Gospel of Jesus for a life of religiosity and have made my “rules for following Jesus” – and not Jesus himself – my god.
For me, this is how the “behavior god” works: when I “do good,” my behavior makes me feel pleased with myself. When I “do bad,” my behavior makes me feel displeased with myself. (Can you see how my worship has twisted all around to focus just on me!?)
So, as I sat with Jesus that morning, even while I was embracing my “behavior god,” He whispered something to me: “My love. Yes, you feel unworthy – but I have declared that you are worthy. Your heart may condemn you, but I will not. I have paid for your freedom. Come to me for forgiveness and life. Do not count on your behavior to earn My love.”
You see, the true Gospel, the good news that Jesus came to teach us, has an entirely different effect on one’s heart. His Gospel convicts me of sin, but it also invites me to repent and to refocus on Him. It brings freedom and announces that your heart is spared from condemnation.
Who are you married to? Your “behavior god” or Christ, your groom? What sets you free? The fruit of the Gospel is healing, forgiveness and love. I am set free to start over – every day! Every moment. So, when a day gets started on the wrong footing, I can say to my children (and you can say to your spouse, friend, boss, parents…), “We have had a rough start today. I am sorry. Can we start over? ” And the day really can begin again, perhaps a bit awkwardly, but nevertheless new, in the light of the Gospel.