Thank you, God, for the things you do for me – in spite of me. I used to believe in some sort of Holy Karma type of thing – that the more good I did, the better God would be to me. At some point I realized that this was a losing proposition. There is no way that I could “earn” God’s blessings. That’s not to say that I shouldn’t try. But it really doesn’t seem to work that way. If it did, I would be in bad shape.
It took me a long time to understand and accept the concept of God’s grace. The church organization (not church) that I grew up in, and still am a part of, places less of an emphasis on grace than I think they should. I was always led to believe that much of God’s favor on me depended on my behavior (and the way I looked). As a kid, you wonder if you may have upset the balance and lost your salvation because of that one lie you told. It is a recipe for disaster through guilt and regret. Many of you reading this now may still have similar beliefs. You may also be thinking that I have softened my views on what it takes to travel down the “straight and narrow.” That’s simply not the case.
Look, I am not suggesting that once you become a Christian, you are good to go. “Once saved, always saved” is the scornful label given to those who put too much emphasis on God’s grace. What I am suggesting, however, is that if you are a Christian and do not seek to do good, then maybe you haven’t really given your life to God after all. Your behavior and good works should be a reflection of your comfort in knowing that God will never give up on you. You have given your life to him, and have become one of His own. If you don’t make an effort to follow His teachings, then why are you calling yourself a Christian in the first place?
The karma-based concept leads to a lot of negative side effects. I knew many people growing up who would stumble, then feel that they had “tipped the scales,” lost their salvation, and felt like they had to start all over. Entire lives are led this way. Be super holy for a week, make a mistake, then give up and have a big falling out, then grovel before God, come back, rinse and repeat. It is a miserable way to live, and I think it is at odds with the salvation plan of the new testament.
Be the best Christian you can be; not because if you don’t you will lose your salvation and go to Hell, but rather because you love God and want to please him. The net result may be the same in your mind, but it’s the difference between an immature, negatively-reinforced relationship, and a positive one.
And give up trying to earn God’s love. You’ve already got it.