Monday, September 14, 2009

Mailing It In

We were all at home when they came by. I'd seen 'em wandering the neighborhood, a pair of moderately well-dressed Asian ladies with a handful of literature. I was, unlike most of humanity, actually kinda looking forward to them coming by the house. Being a Jesus-mutant already, I actually enjoy those chats with door-to-door prosthelytizers. Pleasantly subversive conversations about faith with bright-eyed young Mormons and pointed exegetical repartee with Jehovah's Witnessbots make for a lovely afternoon.

But though we were all around, they never knocked. They never registered their presence. They just slid a tract into the door, and disappeared. Snif.

The tract, entitled "Where are the Dead," was left abandoned at my doorstep. It's an old one, written perhaps 50 years ago by a Baptist evangelist. The theme is, of course, the Day of Judgment. It's a random buffet of scripture, a smattered mishmosh of verses telling the reader of 1) their sin and the bad, bad stuff that will happen and 2) Christ's redeeming sacrifice. On the back, there was a little form to fill out and mail in professing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

The tract is about the Day of Judgment, and so it focuses, natch-rally, on quotations from the Book of Revelation for all the scrumdiddlyumptious details on the unpleasantness that will befall those who haven't filled in the form on the back of the tract.

What I found particularly interesting, though, was what was missing. Though the tract was almost entirely scripture quotes about eternal damnation and eternal life, it somehow neglected to use Matthew 25. You know. That part of Matthew's Gospel where Jesus talks specifically and at length about the standard by which all humanity will be judged? Where he lays out what the Son of Man will ask each of us? The "did you get off your sorry behind and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner" part?

Funny how they always seem to forget about that one. Perhaps it seems like too much work.

6 comments:

  1. Process Deist (Mickey Cooper)September 14, 2009 at 9:01 PM

    I am so disappointed that most Christians base their theology around the question, “What happens to me when I die”? Will we ever grow into the message of Jesus, which is based on the question, “What is happening while you live”?
    My friend Rev. David Diller brought this point out in his sermon on Sunday.

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  2. @ Process: Agreed. I don't so much mind the first question. I just wish people realized that if you take Jesus seriously, the answer is completely dependent on the second.

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  3. I love the title on that tract. I found out where the dead are!

    Where are the dead? They're right here

    "I just wish people realized that if you take Jesus seriously, the answer is completely dependent on the second."

    Wouldn't it make more sense to say that what we do is a result of what Christ accomplished upon the cross? The Spirit transforms a person, brings them to a point of repentance and then that life now redeemed, transformed is lived in service to Christ. Those "good works" you mention stem from that very thing.

    Good works bereft of Christ and the Gospel are simply that, "good works".

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  4. @ Jonathan: Well, sorta. On the one hand, I do agree that our conforming ourselves to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit produces good works, and makes our lives acceptable before God.

    On the other, where I see Jesus talking about acts of kindness and charity, I don't perceive the same caveats as my more conservative brethren. Charitable acts done out of a sense of coercion, obligation, or fear of punishment are not good. Those acts are done under the Law, and are not a sign of the indwelling grace of the Spirit. Similarly, charitable acts done with a heart of self-seeking are also not good. When Hamas uses hospitals to shore up support for their terrorist actions in their community, that ain't really goodness.

    But those acts that flow from the goodness of an abundant heart are...well...good. Not just in my eyes, but in the eyes of the Son of Man. Perhaps I'm reading too much Matthew lately.

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  5. "Charitable acts done out of a sense of coercion, obligation, or fear of punishment are not good. Those acts are done under the Law, and are not a sign of the indwelling grace of the Spirit."

    Agreed. I think it's doubly important as well to emphasize that our "works" are in no way meritorious. We're not down here getting our "tickets punched", so to speak. We are doing what God Himself, through His Spirit, leads us to do. All so that He may be glorified through those truly charitable actions of His children. Cause in the end I believe that's what it's really all about; the Father's Glory.

    Soli Deo Gloria, can I get an "Amen!"?

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  6. By the way, when I say "meritorious" I mean in a Salvific sense of the word. I do believe that we as Christians are going to be judged.

    I find it interesting that you and I agree on quite a few things actually. Common ground and respectful disagreement are beautiful things.

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