Yesterday I had one of those marvelous moments of the information age. Reviewing documents before heading to a meeting I got a Facebook chat pop-up that went something like, “So, professor, how do we experience God’s pleasure?”
After stalling by asking such questions as, “What do you mean?” and “Isn’t the pollen count murder on the nose?” I started working through the challenges she was facing as a youth pastor.
Our children too often hear messages of where they have failed. There is a chorus around them suggesting, indicating, sometimes even directly saying, that they have failed, that they are not good enough, that they need to achieve more, that they need to be more.
And within such a chorus, it is easy to ascribe a voice to God. If this is how all the people “up there” see me, then this must be God’s view, too.
As we talked through the challenges she was facing, I began to wonder if the answer she and her youth group needed at this point wasn’t “peace.” How do we know God’s pleasure in us, his approval of his, his delight in us as his children?
One significant part of the puzzle, it seems to me, is the discovery that we are at peace–knowing that God accepts us in the beloved son, we know, too, that we are God’s beloved daughters and sons. And in that knowledge, we rest.
Here is where the pastoral payoff of Luther’s angst-ridden conscience comes to the fore. We are all too often confronted–by voices around us or, just as frequently, by voices within–telling us that we are not good enough. And it is only natural that when we so conceive of ourselves as “not good enough” that God becomes one source of the common chorus of voices.
So we need to change our internal monologues, and change the message to the body of Christ around us.
Stop beating yourself up: God loves you. Stop talking to yourself as if you’re a stupid failure. You are embraced by God into the very person of his dearly beloved Son.
And stop talking to your children, and the children around you, and your pastor, and your parents, and your spouse, as if they are consistent failures. We must be to one another messengers of peace. And this, in turn, means being messengers of grace.
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. And loved. And cherished. And celebrated.
Thanks be to God.