In John 8:31-41, the Pharisees defend their relationship to God by citing their lineage, their heritage as descendants of Abraham. Jesus explains that security doesn’t come from our ancestry, and they might not be as “free” as they think.
Looking at this passage two thousand years later, it seems obvious that our identity in Christ isn’t based on which family we come from, but rather rooted in our connection to the Father that flows out of His grace through Christ. But with a more honest look, I think it’s more than fair to admit we often rely more on “outer signs” to cling to that help us feel more secure verses the harder work of opening our hearts to abide with Christ in an authentic relationship. It’s as if we know in our heads what is supposed to be true and secure, but our hearts cling to other things just to make sure.
Often, though, we aren’t even aware of these games we play.
For me, I can look back on my early years and see that much of my confidence in my relationship with God came from my connection to my family. We were a “Christian” family after all. We prayed at all our meals, attended church all the time, and my dad was a Chaplain in the Air Force…we were professionals. Additionally, with distant relatives coming out of Germany named “Luther,” the case has even been made that we are descendants of Martin Luther, father of the protestant reformation. Does your ancestry top that?
As I got a bit older, I believe I began to attach my security to my efforts to be a “good boy.” Since good fruit is obviously a sign of a good tree, and since I got incredible amounts of affirmation from everyone in my life when I was good, it only made sense. And it worked. I felt really secure in my faith.
I think back to another time when I began an intense study of the Bible, learning lots of rich theology and reading from Saints from many eras of Christian history. I would read through the Bible every year, and I enrolled and took classes from Reformed Theological Seminary. Without question, I think I subtly began to place my security in my intellectual understanding of theology and doctrines, in my understanding of the Bible rather than in the One who authored it.
And as if I hadn’t already encountered plenty of “outer” reasons to feel secure, I can also see how retiring from the NFL to serve the poor was not only a true expression of my heart for Christ and desire to live that out in a tangible way, but also a great way for me to feel more secure before the Creator of the Universe.
As I mentioned, I don’t think I would have been able to acknowledge these things as they were happening. It’s often only in looking back that we can spot both sides of the motives of our hearts.
So, on this day, I pray my soul will be bare before God, open and aware of His voice, in tune with His overwhelming and tender love, and safely abiding with and in Him.
But when I start to slip, I’m sure I’ll find something I can grab onto that looks spiritual enough to not raise any suspicions on anyone’s part, including my own. While my heart has enough faith to trust in Christ alone, I also have enough insecurity to feel the need for something else.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free…Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”