Mammon and change

Some days all I have to wonder about is the spiritual health of my youth group kids and their families. But occasionally I get really important questions, like "Post-Resurrection, would Jesus eat the ham?"

We're selling ham from the Honeybaked Ham Co. for a spring fundraiser to help with the cost of transportation and scholarships for this summer's mission trip, and my senior pastor's question was "Would Jesus eat this ham?"


There's a certain theological question there. Living on the far side of Easter as we do, and seeing life through that lens, there are all kinds of details that Jesus told us to pay attention to ("I have come to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it," and "not one stroke will pass from the Law until the kingdom comes") but not obsess over, because Christ's grace is sufficient for the things we fail to understand and do. Peter's vision in Acts (chapter 10) of God bringing a whole pile of not-good-for-eating creatures to the hungry apostle and saying "Rise, Peter; kill and eat" first means "welcome everyone, even Gentiles, into Christ's family," but the image God chose may say something about the freedom of a believer in other areas too. Paul debates food (specifically food first offered to idols) in Romans and concludes that eating any kind of food is only not allowed when that example would weaken a fellow Christian's faith.

At the same time, Jesus never told us that following him replaced our attention to the Commandments and the God-honoring life prescribed in the Old Testament. Just because I follow Jesus doesn't mean I can stop speaking the truth from my heart, despising the wicked and refusing to take bribes. (Psalm 15)

At the heart of this issue is the line between grace and performance, between what God does for me and the work I am to do to show the transformation in my life because of that gift. I always have a hard time defining this one; I want there to be something for me to do that's important. I want to have some influence, even just a little, over my salvation. For me it's because I'm a control freak, but I believe a lot of people ask this question.

And I can't answer it convincingly. I feel like a big cheater when I call it "by grace through faith." It can't really be that easy! Saying that God meeting me on the cross is a starting point and all my work starts after that covers the question, but also seems to leave too much in my hands.

And, although it is the only solution, I have a sneaking feeling of giving up when I admit that I will be asking God how this works when I see him in person. If I could understand the mystery of salvation, God would be too small for me to believe in him; still, I wish I knew why I, as a laborer only for the last hour of the day, (Matthew 20) receive the same reward as God's children who were with him from the beginning.

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