Unpublished: Work Hard

Over the weekend my post from 2009 The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity got a third wind on the Internet attracting more readers and commenters.

Overall, most of the comments continue to be positive. People seemed to get what I was trying to say. The post is over-the-top but I added in disclaimers at multiple locations. Some people saw those disclaimers and understood. Others missed them.

Looking over all the old and new comments the main objection seems to be that I was advocating "works based righteousness" in my post. The objection was that my call to work on being a better person in the post was negating the grace of God and privileging human effort.

I try to be patient with these sorts comments but I have to be honest with you, I struggle mightily with holding my tongue. Just now I deleted four sentences I wrote that would have be inappropriate for sensitive readers.

Here's the deal. I'm not afraid of works based righteousness. That's just not a bogeyman in my theological closet. In fact, I grew up in a tradition that actually believed in works based righteousness. We believed you could fall from grace if you didn't keep the effort up. And though I've nuanced my Church of Christ heritage--believing that love rather than, say, acapella music is what God demands of me--what I hold to from my upbringing is a strong belief in moral performance.

The point being, I try to pay attention to how I treat people.

Basically, this whole worry over works based righteousness is fixing two problems I don't have.

First, I don't have a guilt problem. Lots of people reject works based righteousness because it makes them feel guilty and afraid when they make mistakes. That's not me. I'm not motivated by fear or guilt. What I believe in, when it comes to following Jesus, is hard work.

Second, I don't have a pride problem. Well, I do have a pride problem, it's just not a pride problem with works based righteousness. All this hand-wringing about works is that we'll convince ourselves that by doing good works we'll come to think that we deserve our salvation, or that our works could help us earn our salvation.

But hey, guess what? I don't have that problem. I believe in working hard for Jesus but I've never come close to flirting with the illusion that I could "earn" or "deserve" my salvation. Every day I take a hard look in the proverbial mirror. I'm fully aware that I'm not a very good person. I'm keenly aware that I need the grace and mercy of God.

I believe in hard work because I love Jesus, people and the communion of saints. Passionately. But I'm under no illusions that I'm somehow "saved" by this work. If God wants to save me I'm sure God can do that. I'll leave the saving business up to God. I spend zero percent of my time worrying about my salvation.

You can't scare me with hell or bribe me with heaven. I'm too busy working on other stuff.

I'm sure somewhere out there someone cares about the whole grace vs. works debate. I don't. I just believe in two simple things.

I believe that following Jesus is hard work and that Christians, when it comes to following Jesus, should have a good work ethic.

I trust that God will take care of the rest.

--from an unpublished post

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