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Friday, February 26, 2010

SIGN LANGUAGE

"And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all" (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

A friend of mine pastors a church in a small mountain community not far from Boise. The community is nestled in a wooded valley through which a pleasant little trout stream meanders. Behind the church and alongside the stream, there is a grove of willows, a length of grass and a sandy beach. It's an idyllic spot that has long been a place where members of the community gather to picnic and enjoy the beauty of that place.

One day, a man in the church congregation expressed concern over the legal implications of "outsiders" using the property. "Suppose someone is injured," he said. "The church might be sued." Though the elders were reluctant to take this stand, he convinced them that they should post a sign on the site informing visitors that this was private property and warning them away.

The pastor did post a sign. It read: "Warning! Anyone using this beach may, at any moment, be surrounded by people who love you."

I read his sign the week after he put it up and was charmed. "Exactly," I thought. "Once again grace has trumped the law!" This is the message we want "outsiders" to hear: "You're loved here!"

This is love for one's neighbor that springs from the riches of God's kindness, forbearance and patience. Paul was very clear: It is not the Law, but the goodness of God that draws men and women to repentance (Romans 2:4).

DHR

2 comments:

The Growth Center said...

Been waiting for this entry. Love it and am challenged by it. May I remember that love is greater than the law.

gcorron said...

The Bible is clear how that repentance comes through grief for our sin (2 Cor 7:10). God's kindness is instrumental, to be sure, but not efficacious, as Paul clearly teaches in Romans 2. "Godly grief" is the only way anyone comes to repent of their sin.

Calls to repentance in the Bible rarely focus on God's kindness; most often, they are confrontational, stern, and not very "nice". Jesus taught the way to get a brother to repent is to rebuke him (Luke 17:3), not to perform acts of kindness for him.

Yes, Paul also recommends gentleness in 2 Tim 2:24-25, but elsewhere he is anything but gentle (Titus 1:12-13, Gal 1:8, 5:12)

Paul recommends we use the law to confront sin (1 Tim 1:8-11). Peter got right in Simon the Magician's face to get him to repent (Acts 8:22-24).

So clearly, the Bible teaches repentance as an uncomfortable experience in general. There are times when we need to be patient, but also times to be tough (Eccl 3:7-8).