Originally posted June 1, 2012, at A Front View Pew. Republished with permission of the author.
Our pastor asked us to reflect on when we realized we were Lutheran, so here’s my way of explaining.
Religion, it seemed to me, was like chasing a carrot at the end of a stick. You could run as hard as you wanted, but you would never reach that carrot. It was an elaborate and confusing point system that never quite allowed you to accumulate enough credit to reach your goal.
What do you do when you realize you’re playing a game you can’t possibly win? You quit and that’s pretty much what I did. Oh, I would still pretend from time to time like I was still a part of the game, but I knew when it was all over, I was going to end up the loser, just like everyone else, except they didn’t know it yet.
I played along so well that I was given a Sunday school class to teach. We decided to do a skit, so I looked online for one with the right number of parts that wasn’t too long. The format was a game show in which the contestants competed with one another by taking turns naming all the good things they had done. This made perfect sense to me, until the game came to an end. The winner wasn’t the obviously better competitor. Something wasn’t right.
I re-read the script. It referenced Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
The “carrot” was already mine. It had been mine all along. And what a wonderful, life-changing, precious carrot it is.
Eventually, I realized that there was a limitless supply of carrots. In fact, I started finding carrots in a lot more places than I ever would have guessed, even in some strange places. Sometimes they snuck up and surprised me, in places like a cowboy movie or an Andy Griffith episode.
When you have all the carrots you could ever want or need, you can afford to be exorbitantly generous. There is no more reason to be stingy with or protective of carrots. You no longer have to worry about whether the other person has more carrots than you do.
You don’t have to try to figure out whether they deserve any carrots because there are more than enough for everyone.
The carrots are free, but they don’t belong to us. We can’t hoard the carrots for ourselves and dole them out to only the people we think should have them. The carrots are for everyone, no exceptions.
But what about the good works? What about going to church? What happens when there is no longer an obligation to perform a list of items on an endless checklist?
Freedom happens. And out of that freedom comes a joyful desire to respond in whatever way the Spirit leads. Worship still happens, but instead of something we have to do, it becomes something we can’t not do. Service to others happens, too, but instead of doing it in order to gain something, we do it because we are already filled and can’t help but share from that abundance.
Peace and carrots be with you all.
Find a link to Anita Nuetzman’s blog A Front Pew View at Lutheran Blogs.