No such thing as deserving

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

         — John 9.1-3

Biblical cultures believed that all disease and misfortune is God’s punishment. We come close. One problem is that our little ego-self has a hard time being fully in the present moment. We stay chained to the past: we believe that what we’ve done in the past somehow determines what we “deserve” in the present. But God is not in the past, and God is not determined by the past. God is not obligated to match a punishment or a reward with some past deed, and we are not obligated to compensate for the past. Resurrection means that God is free of the past, and sets us free as well. This is what forgiveness is, and the grace of God.

In this story, people assume that a man born blind has to stay that way. Jesus will show them otherwise.

Another problem is that we really do think that, having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we can judge—and just because our little egoic selves think we can, we think that judging is what needs to be done, and what God does. We think that one’s actions can be so simplistically labeled as good or evil as to warrant a single particular fate that one “deserves.” But our actions have a thousand aspects, causes and consequences, and good and evil are not so easily separated out. Many of the “bad” things we do are ways of coping we learned as children that kept us sane and alive. Is that bad? Maybe what God judges is not our past but our present: how present we are to God right now, in this moment.

In this story, people assume that if there has been sin, someone ”deserves” punishment. Jesus will show them otherwise.

Neither the man nor his parents sinned (in the past). He was born blind so that God’s glory might be revealed in him (in the present). There is no such thing as deserving. There is only God’s grace.

You think that for your acts, good or bad, there is deserving. Let God show you otherwise. Be present to God in the present moment. Let God free you of the past. Learn from it, yes; receive from it, let it shape and guide you. But it does not control you, or God. You live with the consequences of what you have done, but God does not attach reward or punishment to that. God only grants you grace. Allow God to bring you gently into the present moment, freeing you from the past, and from all “deserving.” No one owes anyone anything. You are free. You are loved. You are free to love God as perfectly as you can. Come into God’s presence—God’s presence for us, God’s present— with thanksgiving.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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