A Two-Part Faith
“… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
I was recently doing a repair on a cabinet door where I needed to fill a large hole that was created by the screw pulling out of the wood. Now, I could have taken the time to carve out the space and then glue in a filler-piece of wood, but fortunately, I was able to use an epoxy instead. Epoxy is a two-part resin where you have one tube that is sticky and gooey (giving you some substance to fill the cavity), and another tube that contains a bit more liquid (not much) – and often it’s of a different color.
When mixed, a chemical reaction is activated as the two parts become one. The glue heats up and (within minutes) sets up and hardens to a point that fills the cavity in the wood (or in the metal) that binds two parts together -- and even can be sanded smooth. (I rarely worry about the sanding part unless Debbie is going to see it. Then, I have to paint it to match the color, too!)
When our oldest child was little, he noticed the crucifix on the wall of his aunt’s bedroom. She had recently converted to Catholicism and hung it on the wall. While staring at the crucifix with an image of Jesus hanging on it, he said to her, “Aunt Jackie, that’s not right! Jesus isn’t hanging on the cross! He’s alive!”
I thought of that moment this past week when Pastor Juan Aragón told me about the competing Good Friday parades in his heavily Catholic hometown. The Catholic church would be marching with their crucifixes in one part of town while a local, evangelical/Pentecostal church would be marching with signs that said, “Jesus is not dead… He’s alive!”
Both groups had truth on their side of course … it’s just that their focus was different. One group focused on the suffering and the sacrifice of Jesus that calls us to repentance for our sins … the other group focused on His victory over death. Both are biblical messages for Christians.
And like a two-part resin, when these two ideas … the idea of repentance for our sins and the idea of claiming God’s promises of Grace through His Son … are brought together, we have a faith that can fill the gaps that occur in our lives.
No … Jesus is no longer on the cross … He is alive! But to gloss over the sacrifice He made for our sins cheapens the grace of which we have received.
And yes, our sins are the reason for Jesus’s sacrifice, but to live in a state of constant penitence is not what Jesus desires for our lives either. He came that we might have a life that is abundant and free! He told the woman caught in adultery to get up and go from there to live her life free of sin (something that required an intentional act on her part, by the way!).
Honestly, if those two groups that paraded through town would stop and actually talk to one another about what they believe, instead of one group marching in protest of the other group … they might see that they are proclaiming the same message on two different sides of the coin!
Lord, As we celebrate your life, death and resurrection this week, help us neither to rush too quickly to the end of the story nor to stop before the story is completed. Help us to have a strong faith that is activated by our repentance AND by the promise of your grace. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains