Wednesday, July 27, 2011

True Closeness

"Fix Me!"

This is the cry of the heart of many of us.  We beg for God to "fix us."  We want therapists to "fix us."  We want to fix ourselves.  So, we relentlessly pursue our goal.  Our focus is predominantly performance-based.  And when God doesn't fix us, we become angry with Him or decide He does not care.  When therapists don't fix us, we find another or slump in despair, believing we cannot be fixed.  And worse, when we cannot fix ourselves, we attack, condemn, beat on, punish, and isolate ourselves -sabotaging the thing we truly need: true closeness with God and others.

When the cry of our heart is "fix me!", we dictate the terms of the relationship with God (and with others).  Have you noticed that?  And why doesn't God comply?  Why doesn't He answer our desperate demand to have our person flaws and foibles and shortcomings fixed?  It seems like He doesn't, at least not to our satisfaction.  Why could it be?  Could it be that God doesn't want to settle for that?  Could it be that God doesn't want a relationship that is not really a relationship?  Could it be that what God desires is closeness -the very thing you are avoiding with your demanding attitude?

Yes, being free from your problems, from your flaws, from those things you struggle with which make life so difficult, might solve some things.  But it is a pretty low goal.  It is a goal that God really doesn't care much for.  After all, He could have "fixed" us in a myriad of ways.  But He didn't.  Instead, He chose to come down to us.  To stoop to our level, if you will.  He entered our world as one of us, Immanuel, God with us.  Could it be that He chose this way to redeem us because it is the only way to break down our constant need to climb our ladders and avoid the very thing we need most -closeness with our Maker?

This is what is so insidious about religious moralism.  It is easy to see that outright sin, like committing adultery or murdering someone or stealing, would separate us from God and get in the way of a relationship with Him.  But religious moralism, trying to relentlessly "fix" ourselves morally and spiritually, creates the same problem in a less obvious way.  See, it looks like we are being close with God.  It looks good.  It looks all spiritual.  But you aren't close with someone you are trying to buy off with your good deeds.  You aren't close with someone you are trying to placate in order to keep yourself from being punished.  You aren't close with someone when you hope to manipulate their blessing by your behavior.

True Closeness

But God did come down.  God did stoop to our level.  Jesus is "God with us."  He did walk in our shoes.  He did enter our suffering.  He did bear our sins by dying for them.  He did rise from the grave for us as the first of a new creation.  And He sent His Holy Spirit to be with us.  And by His Spirit, He created His Body here on earth -the Church, the body of all believers all over the world.

By grace alone through faith alone we belong to Jesus and become part of this new creation.  We are accepted by God purely as a gift, by what Jesus did on our behalf.  Our flaws and sins are covered by His blood.  All obstacles are removed.  Obstacles to what?  To merely being forgiven and accepted?  No.  Being justified, accepted, forgiven, and reconciled to God are but means to an end.  What is the goal of all of these things?  We get God.  We get closeness, true closeness, with God.

And in this new creation, we are told there is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free.  What is the purpose of that?  Is it just a nice thing to say?  No, it is so that all the world's performance standards and ways we classify ourselves as better or worse than others come to naught and we are enabled to just be -to be close, to be in community without the strife and without the competitive, self-serving, comparative individualism. 

Can you remember back to when you were really little?  Maybe you didn't have true closeness like that.  Maybe you remember wanting it but not getting it.  All of us missed it in some degree because we all have imperfect parents and siblings and friends and teachers who need Jesus just as much as anyone else.  But some of us missed that more than others.  And over the years, we have become jaded and dull to the idea of true closeness.  What is it even?  We certainly don't know.  We gave up and settled for "fix me."  We became fixed on performance to deal with the pain and anger and difficulty in life.

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