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Prayer for Week of October 1 – Stop Trying So Hard!

October 1, 2012
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“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Galatians 5:1

What does it mean to be a Christian? Brennan Manning once asked this question to a group of seniors at a Catholic College. “Their answers were so similar in content that I reduced them to a single paragraph that read: ‘To be a Christians means that I must go to Mass on Sunday, I can’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, I can’t practice birth control, get a divorce, procure an abortion, or see an X-rated movie.’ For many people in the church, Christianity is not the Good News. The Gospel is not the glad tidings of freedom and salvation proclaimed by Christ Jesus but a rigid code of do’s and don’t’s, a tedious moralizing, a list of minimum requirements for avoiding the pains of hell.” (Lion and Lamb, The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus)
A friend and I were recently discussing the compulsion to try to be better Christians. Why is it that Christianity seems to involve so much fleshly effort? There is a mutual friend that we’d both like to pick up and toss into the Holy Spirit’s river so she can soak up some freedom! This dear lady always seems to be trying so hard and never measures up to her own standards.

For a while now Gana and my parenting philosophy has been not so much to conform behavior, but to win the heart. I remember Rich Mullins saying, “Don’t be good. Be God’s.” Yet, so often even for myself I am just trying to be good, as if my goodness has any merit whatsoever. It’s like I think God is going to be really impressed with me if I behave a certain way.

Brennan Mannning again: “I believe Jesus calls all of us to let go of the desire to appear good, so that we can listen to the word within us and move in the mystery of who we are. The preoccupation with projecting the perfect image, of being a model Christian and edifying others with our virtues, leads to self-consciousness, sticky pedestal behavior, and bondage to human respect.”

I don’t believe that becoming a Christian is a call to work harder on our own righteousness. Instead, we are called to bear fruit. John 15:8, “My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father.” Ever see a tree bearing fruit? It does not TRY to bear fruit. It does not seemed stressed in trying to produce something useful. A tree bears fruit naturally when it has good roots. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me.” John 15:4

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in all the doing, that we forget about the being. We need to be connected to the Lord and He will produce the fruit of the Spirit in us. Instead of trying to remember a hundred different things on some heavenly to-do list in order to produce fruit, how about we worry about just one thing: Love Jesus. I mean, really love Him. St. Augustine said, “Love, and do what you like.”

If we truly loved Him we could take a deep breath and stop fretting over whether or not we were in His will, whether or not we were on His good-list today, whether or not He was pleased with us.

In Christ, we please Him.  Praise the Lord it doesn’t rest on my efforts.

Jesus, may we all live in the truth of Your acceptance this week.  May we enjoy our freedom, love you truly and honor you out of that love and freedom.  Amen.

(Linked to Motivation Monday)

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