Text: Colossians 1:9-14, 21-23; Eph 2:1-9; Rom 1:18-23 Pardon the dark introduction, but if the purpose behind the incarnation was reconciliation, that implies we were enemies with God. What happened? Any one who treats a fellow human being less than human will be alienated at some level. Why should we think it any different with God? Rom 1:21 "For although they knew God, they did not honor him AS God." To treat God any less than God would be as wrong as treating humans less than human. Society divorces perpetrators. God divorced the human race. And as in all divorces, the consequences are profound. With a cosmic divorce, the consequences take on a cosmic magnitude. So much so, that reconciliation was beyond moral or religious reform. It required a rescue.
What are we being rescued from?
PERSONAL CONSEQUENCES: We are constantly seeking ways to justify our worth, significance to be loved, to be accepted by whomever/whatever. And if that 'thing' isn't God – if it is anything else other than God – our identity begins to disintegrate. Why? It is inherently unstable and insecure. Anything other than God is bound to evaporate. And when that 'thing' disappears – you disappear. Or you become full of bitterness and resentment at that someone or something standing between you and your god-substitute. If you lose it through your own failings, you will hate or despise yourself as a failure as long as you live. And if you say, "I will not build my happiness or significance on anyone or thing," you will actually be building your identity on the glory of your personal freedom and independence. And if that disappears – again – you disappear. You become a vacuous hollow self.
Alienation from God inevitably leads to deep forms of addiction. When we turn good things into ultimate things, we are, as it were, spiritually addicted to those good things (since we see them as ultimate things). When we find it (or think we found it) we will act around it like an addict. You will be in denial about the degree to which you are controlled by your god-substitute. It becomes an inordinate love. And inordinate love creates inordinate, uncontrollable anguish if anything goes wrong with our god-substitute. And when we do get it, what happens? Disillusionment when we find that we still are not happy, insecure, lonely, still feeling undervalued.
SOCIAL CONSEQUENCE? If we get our identity from our political position, a theological position, or some sort of cause, then politics is not really about politics, theology isn't really about God, and the cause isn't really about justice. It is about us our glory (significance, weight, value). As a result, we will/must despise and demonize the opposition – because our very source of loveliness is being threatened. Therefore, at the core - racism, classism, and sexism are not matters of ignorance or a lack of education, but these inordinate desires that control us. Rom 1:21, "For although we knew God, we didn't not honor him as God." The real culture war isn't out there, but a result (extension) of what is taking place inside our own disordered hearts, wracked by inordinate desires for those "ultimate" things that enslave us, that lead us to feel superior (to others, ultimately to God) and exclude (kill, hate, alienate) those without them, and that fail to satisfy us even when we get them.
COSMIC CONSEQUENCE? The Bible says disease, genetic disorders, famine, natural disasters, aging, and death itself are as much the results of sin as are oppression, war, crime, and violence. We have lost God's "shalom" – physically, spiritually socially, psychologically, culturally. Things now fall apart. Rom 8: Paul says the entire world is now "in bondage to decay" and "subject to futility" and will not be put right until WE are put right.
Why do we need to be rescued?
Separation God = separation from the source of life. You are not just divorced relationally from God, but separated spiritually. You are spiritually dead. Eph 2:1 says, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins." How dead? Eph 2:8 – "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this (Paul is referring to our "faith") is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast." How dead? We don't have the ability to even trust (have faith) in God.
Moreover, the bible teaches us that that our rebellion and hostility towards God is not without company. There is a domain of darkness (Col 1:13) ruled by (Eph 2) the "prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work IN the sons of disobedience."
How were we rescued?
God's reconciliation was a one-sided rescue. It's not like we were drowning at sea with the ability to grab a hold onto a life ring. We've drowned. Which means what? We can't boast even about our trust in God. Reconciliation wasn't something we were entitled to because we had any part in the rescue. We didn't nor couldn't chose to have faith in God.
It's not from a sense of fairness that folks argue, "You should have given faith to everyone! You should have rescued everyone at sea!" If one were truly concerned about fairness, one would have to argue just the opposite - God should have saved no one! Thus in a sense, it is true that God wasn't fair in rescuing some – it would have been fair for God to have rescued none.
There is no room for boasting. There is absolutely no room for entitlement which stems from our pride – which is the ultimate kill-joy in this Advent season.
The level of gratitude we have in the receiving the body of Christ will depend a whole lot on the level of our undeserved-ness that we feel. On this Advent season may we remember not only the gift of baby Jesus, born in a manger, born to die – but the very faith that we have in Jesus as well.
Lord, please recapture in our hearts, space that any sense of entitlement (boasting and pride) have stolen. Enable us to be instead … (Col 1:11-14) joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you, to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
It is in your Son's name we pray, Amen