I grew up on the “supposed to” diet of the religious faith. It was pretty simple, all of life was comprised of two lists. One list were the good things we were supposed to do while the other was a bad list of things we were not supposed to do. Great debate ensued in regards to which list certain items belonged on and that debate often caused dissension and division in the body of Christ. Sad.
I developed, as I believe many Christians do, a sort of love-hate relationship with that list. It became my lens for seeing the world. I would compare how well others kept their list against the standard of how well I kept mine. It was exhausting at times, that was the part i hated. The part I loved, was that i could control it, measure it, keep tabs on how well i was doing. It was like a detailed expense report on my sins and saintly actions.
Like a business struggling during a time of financial crisis what I realized, is I was going to need more than a big black friday sale to get my bottom line in the black again. In fact what became even clearer, is that I had no real hope of breaking even.
Here was my greatest mistake and oversight. I viewed this list like a scale. If I could keep it properly balanced I could be saved. If not, I was doomed. On some level this comforted me, because I thought, in error, that there was something I could do to tip the scales in my favor. Problem being, even if I managed to perform one good deed of equal worth for every bad deed I ever committed, a truly Herculean task, I would still not break even. For despite the balance that may exist between my actions, or even, if I proved more pious than most I could actually overwhelm my bad deeds with good ones I discovered that my deeds could not fix what was broken.
Our ‘lists’ of good and bad are really little more than Christmas lights on a tree. They decorate. They make it look nice. They dont give it life. It doesnt matter how well you adorn your Christmas tree or how beautiful it looks. The tree has been cut down. It is dead. No decoration can change that. The only hope the tree has is being grafted into the source of life.
In our case this means our decorations are just in the way. We need surrender ourselves to the one who can connect us to life again. We can’t do it. All we can do is add fancy decorations to make death look nice. Jesus can give life. He can re-connect us to our roots so that we can have life in Him once again.