It’s Just Not Fair – Reflection for 5 March 2017
It just doesn’t seem fair. It’s almost like Bill Belichek stole Satan’s playbook, videotaped all of his sideline signals, and then gave them to us. In the Garden, we see that crafty serpent challenge God’s word, twist God’s word, and finally question God’s love and goodness. Then once he sees a little opening, he pounces with doubt, fear, blame, and shame. In the wilderness, we see the same tactics once again. Only this time, Jesus stands firm in the knowledge and love of God. We’ve seen how the devil works, and we’ve seen how to beat him. Why don’t we just use this season of Lent to focus all of our efforts on defeating Satan since we know all of his tricks? Perhaps if we fast enough or pray enough or give enough or serve enough, we can be good enough this time.
This is the danger of Lent, the temptation to think that we can make ourselves holy by our own efforts. We are reminded in the invitation to Lent in the Ash Wednesday service that the church uses this time to prepare for Easter, to reconcile with those separated from the fellowship, and to prepare new converts for baptism. I am tempted to try to fulfill those baptismal vows to renounce the devil, the empty promises of the world, and the sinful desires of the flesh all by myself to prove myself worthy. When I inevitably fail, I am tempted to give up completely. Fortunately, Paul reminds us that our righteousness is completed in Christ. We have nothing left to prove.
The unfairness is actually more like being on a four-man best ball scramble with Jordan Spieth, Arnold Palmer, and Tiger Woods as the other three players. I know that my contribution to that team would not impact the outcome at all. For me, this is the hardest part of the Gospel. I get all of the benefit while Jesus did all of the work. In response, I try to hold parts of my life back from God until I can make them right on my own. The disciplines of Lent help me to recognize the impossibility and foolishness of this attempt. For me the best part of Lent is when I stop striving against the unfairness of God’s love for me and start resting in the grace of His love for all of us.