No Rules. No Right.

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I have eaten my fair share of bloomin’ onions. I’ve sat and wondered if they actually have steak houses down under. I’ve sipped a frothy beverage and annoyingly repeated lines from Crocodile Dundee while waiting for my food. What I mean to say is, I’ve eaten at Outback Steakhouse. 

A while ago their tagline was “No Rules. Just Right.” This has always struck me as odd. Sure it captures what I can only presume is a rebellious Australian spirit. No rules. Yet, just as we are fully bought into the no rules aspect of dining, they get you with the just right. I think this was to give the impression that your steak would be cooked just right. It could also mean everything about one’s experience at Outback would be – just right. 

Both halves of this tagline are lies. The varied ways that Outback Steakhouses aren’t “just right” are probably self revelatory. But the real hypocrisy is first half of the line “No rules.”  The moment you get up from the table and try to leave without paying, you will quickly find that there are indeed rules. If you were to throw your cutlery on the floor or mistreat the staff or bother other patrons, they will show you the door for breaking the, well, rules. 

Further, If you order a steak Medium Rare (as one should), the only reason it would come out cooked to the state of Medium Rare is because the chef followed the rules of how long or hot to cook the steak. If your steak was black and charcoaly and you sent it back to the kitchen, you could do so only because there are, in fact, rules about steaks and steakhouses. 

Some people think Jesus threw out all the rules. Some believe Jesus tells us we don’t need and shouldn’t follow rules. They might even come to the opinion that rules are for pharisees and reactionaries (they would be partially right here). It is as if they believe the tagline of Christianity is “No Rules. Just Christ.”

As attractive as that line might be (especially to us Americans), it isn’t very Biblical and doesn’t follow our Tradition. This Sunday’s gospel shows us that Jesus didn’t come to destroy the rules, but to fulfill them. He preaches clearly and decisively that not only are the rules not too harsh and shouldn’t be abandoned, but in fact the rules don’t go far enough. If the old rule was that violence against your neighbor was bad, Jesus ups the ante to anger with your fellow man is wrong. He goes on to increase the demand in several other areas. 

Jesus teaches us that it isn’t that the rules should be dismissed, but the rules will never be enough to establish the Kingdom and save our souls. In fact, Jesus preaches the radical and difficult reality that we are not enough. He says that we can never do enough to earn salvation or approval. It is only God who is enough who can save us in the face of the high bar of following Jesus Christ. 

Should we follow the rules of following Jesus? Absolutely. Should we only follow the the bare minimum of the rules? Absolutely not. The rules are good and we must abide, but we must go on to love and love well. When asked what is the greatest rule, love for God and love for neighbor was Jesus’ answer. 

Live it: Make a rule for yourself to follow for one week. Try something like: Drink only water. or No TV. or Say “Hi!” to everyone you walk past. or Introduce yourself to strangers. See what works. Maybe you’ll fine something new for Lent this year. 

Sunday Readings for February 16th, 2020.

There are good people in hell.

Sunday Readings for September 29, 2019

steve-knutson-lQ2BzDNmnHE-unsplash.jpgThere’s nothing wrong with being a good person. Being good is just fine. The problem lies in what we define as a “good person.”  For the most part, I think we label someone as a good person if they don’t upset someone else. Stay in your lane, support the status quo, keep your eyes ahead and don’t rock the boat. A good person is good to their own family, mostly, and does just enough to leave a good impression. A good person is someone who is nice and polite. 

I bet the rich man in this Sunday’s gospel was thought of as a good person. Go read the gospel (click here). He doesn’t commit any atrocity. He stays in his lane. He is just a good guy. He does what is expected of him. 

What this parable tells us then is that being a good person is not enough to enter into eternal life with God forever. Being simply good (i.e. nice, polite, not trouble), doesn’t mean a person is on their way to eternal glory. 

While the rich man from the parable doesn’t do anything horrible, he also doesn’t do what he could to care for his neighbor. And this is the crux of the matter. Salvation rests not on being morally neutral, but on being sold out for love. It isn’t enough to avoid evil, we also have to do good. Not because we earn heaven, but because our salvation resides with Jesus Christ. 

We say yes to Jesus with more than our words, but with our lives. We say yes to Jesus when we actively seek to love and to love well. The rich man might be a good person, but he doesn’t love well. To love is to sacrifice for the good of the other, and the rich man fails to do that for Lazarus. 

When it comes to our culture’s definition of a good person, the bar is pretty low. We were made for more. We were made for Love. 

Live It:
Identify and then do 1 thing that serves someone else that you don’t want to do or normally wouldn’t do. When you do, say this prayer, “Jesus, I don’t want to do this. But I do it for you.” 

Weeds

July 23rd Sunday Readings.

RX-DK-CGG35206_Common_Lawn_Weeds_Dandelion_v.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.1707My favorite line in this entire gospel is, “Where do the weeds come from?” We all ask this spiritual question from time to time. Where does my desire to sin come from? Where does sin come from in the world? If God is good, why is there bad?

Jesus answers this question directly and clearly, “An enemy has done this.” The point is that the bad seed doesn’t come from God. We were made in the image and likeness of God. We were made for good. However, we were also made free. We have the ability to choose good or evil. That free will allows us to both turn away from God and to turn towards him, to love God well. If we aren’t free, we can’t love.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any new varieties of sin in my life. The same weeds sprout each time. And after years of trying to change, it can become disheartening. We can begin to think, “I am just this way. This is who I am.” The homeowner tells his servants that he isn’t the source of the weeds. God only plants good seed in our lives. We weren’t made to sin.

Best yet, God never gives up. We can’t and shouldn’t either.

Live it: Go find a mirror. Look yourself in the face. Remind yourself that God made you, God loves you, and God will never give up on you.