What’s the Use?

            On this special day, we recognize the Moms in our presence.  I’ve been told (and believe) that there is a bond of love between a mother and child unlike anything else.  Carrying a baby in the womb and experiencing the delivery process, a mother’s love for their child is deeply connected.  And today we share additional joy as a mother will watch her two daughters be baptized in the presence of this faith community.

            Earlier in the week I read an article about mothers who have adult children serving life in prison.  The majority feel an overwhelming void as they watch their dreams for sons and daughters fade away.  There is almost no chance that these individuals will experience freedom again because of their crimes.  And while the mothers acknowledge their child’s mistakes and resulting punishment, they also seek mercy upon their own flesh and blood.  The love of a mother extends grace to their own.

            But we live in an interesting dichotomy.  While we are quick to seek mercy for our families or loved ones, such grace is not typically extended to those outside of our inner circles.  We will ask for special considerations for those with whom we have relationship, but judge the same infractions by people who are disconnected from us.  It goes to show that grace is only present in love.   Where love for another is not present, neither is grace.

Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you.”  Even as we sin against him day in daily life, he loves us and chooses us.  In our baptism that Madi and Liz will soon experience, we are claimed as God’s children, not by anything done to earn or deserve it, but by the grace of Jesus alone. 

This is where we struggle with the issue of love and grace.  While we seek mercy for our own and ourselves, we also prefer to judge others that they should ‘get what they deserve’.  It conflicts with the concept of grace.  And the idea that we should earn what we have is so deeply rooted in our brains, that we often come to resist grace.

How many of you have received unexpected gifts at one time or another?  And how many of you began thinking of how you should repay the giver?  Have you ever rejected assistance because you can do it yourself?  We can’t even give or receive generosity!  There is often an expectation of something in return, at the minimum a ‘thank you’ and at the most, an action or response of equal value.  Have you ever given a gift without some form of gratitude?  Did it bother you?  And if they give something in return, it better not be worth more than the initial gift or there will be the burden of obligation once again.  The problem with this mindset is that love is missing.  Obligation is simply a business transaction.

So I have to wonder, is it really possible for people within a society where one must earn what they deserve, to grasp even a basic glimpse of grace?  If the Bible is true that Jesus chooses us, we do not choose him; and if our confessions are true we are saved by faith alone through his grace, then why are we so determined to earn the grace of Christ?

In Matthew 5:45 we read, “for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”  If God’s grace is not determined by what we do, then what’s the use!?  Why waste our time helping people in need if it doesn’t earn us some favor?  Why come to worship each week for decades if it gains us something? 

The Apostle Paul addressed these very questions.  What’s the use?  Why not go on sinning since we are covered by grace?  “By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” 

Jesus calls us friend instead of slave because we know what the Father wants.  We have been given the mission.  Yet we are slaves in the sense that we are called to obedience to God.  What’s the use?  If we are only doing good for personal gain (in this life or the next), there IS no use.  Selfishness is nowhere to be found in the message of Jesus love.

What’s the use?  Ask a mother why she continues to visit her son/daughter in prison with no hope of getting out.  Ask the spouse who cares for their husband/wife who is nearing the end of their lives.  Why continue doing what you are doing when you aren’t going to see results?  The purpose of life is deeper than a tally of our accomplishments.  If it’s not based on love, then we are missing out on Christ’s joy and peace.  Amen.