Of Forgiveness and Taxes

Imagine this scenario of you will…

You are in a coma. You have been for some time and are completely unaware of your surroundings.

Now imagine while you are “out” the President and Congress passes a sweeping tax reform bill for our country. It is announced that beginning in 2019 everyone will pay a simple flat tax of 12% (I just pulled that number out of the air, so don’t read any significance into it).

Now let’s say that sometime early next year you come out of your coma and after a few weeks of therapy, you are ready to return to your former life, job and all.

But you are unaware of the tax law changes.

Now, let’s assume, for the sake of argument alone, that when told about the tax reform and the new rate. A rate that will save you significantly on your tax bill, you simply refuse to believe it. It’s just “too good to be true”. You request that your taxes be taken out at the same rate as they have always been “just in case”. Maybe you mistrust the government. Who knows? The point is you are paying something you no longer owe simply because you refuse to believe that you don’t have to pay it.

But isn’t this what mainstream Christianity teaches we should do?

It is said that Jesus “paid” the debt of sin to God on your behalf. But if you don’t BELIEVE that, then you have to pay the debt YOURSELF in the form of punishment in Hell for eternity. Basically, if you don’t BELIEVE Jesus secured your forgiveness, then you are not forgiven.

But let’s go back to our real-world scenario. If the tax reform was passed, then those taxes are NOT owed. It makes NO difference what a person BELIEVES about the taxes they think they should pay. If the government has declared a certain rate, then that is ALL they are going to accept. Anything you pay over that will be returned to you, because that is not your debt. In other words, your BELIEF does not change the REALITY of the tax rate. So, why does your belief change your state of forgiveness? If Jesus paid it all, for all humanity, then how could OUR will, our stubbornness or ignorance be stronger than that act of reality? If OUR belief is the linchpin on which forgiveness rests, then wouldn’t we, in the act of believing, an act of OUR will, be effectively saving OURSELVES?

I submit that OUR wills do not make for reality. Jesus PAID the debt. The debt that the LAW demanded — blood. Forgiveness was secured. Whether you or I BELIEVE that fact does not CHANGE the fact. It changes our RESPONSE to that fact, our ability to live in the knowledge of that fact, but not the fact itself. I can continue to pay the old tax rate if I am stubborn enough to, but that doesn’t force the government to take my money. It doesn’t change what IS.

Our faith is for US, not for God. Our faith allows US to accept and live in the forgiveness we’ve ALREADY been given. It does not “allow” God to forgive us. God forgives because He’s God, not because of what we believe, say or do.

So next time someone tries to convince you that your faith is REQUIRED to effect God’s forgiveness (or love or grace or anything else), remind them of this little analogy. Faith believes what is real (truth). It changes SUBJECTIVE reality (what I think and feel), not OBJECTIVE reality.

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“I Deserve God’s Grace”

[This phrase popped into my head this morning while I was waiting for the kids to get out of school. What surprised me was the immediate negative feeling I had when contemplating it. Exploring that feeling and the reasons for it led to this blog post.]

I deserve God’s grace.

Did that bother you at all that I said that? Does it maybe raise your “religious hackles” to hear me say (or anyone for that matter) that we DESERVE anything from God? Well, except judgement, wrath and Hell, of course. We’ve heard that PLENTY all our lives from the church. It’s only because of Jesus, and our acceptance of Him, that we don’t get all that stuff that we DO deserve, and THAT, is said, is grace. But I think we’ve been lied to. Or, at the least, been given a half-truth. Let’s look closer at this. I think you MIGHT come away from this article feeling OK with saying that you DO really DESERVE God’s grace.

First of all, let’s define terms. “Grace” — what is it? Well “dictionary.com” defines it as “favor or goodwill”, “mercy, clemency, pardon”.

In church, the definition I was taught was “undeserved favor” OR “unmerited favor”. You’re probably going, “Well, look, right there it SAYS ‘undeserved’, so HOW can you possibly DESERVE grace?” Well, because I think ‘undeserved’ is not the same as ‘unmerited’ and has crept into our vernacular over time. “Unmerited” means that you didn’t EARN it or WIN it, perform some task, fulfill some promise, etc., etc.. But “undeserved” doesn’t mean the same thing. You can deserve something without having EARNED it, simply by being who you are. For instance, the President DESERVES respect. You may not want to GIVE it to him because of his actions, but he DESERVES it by nature of his office. He didn’t EARN it, as it wasn’t HIS actions that got him the position. He, in a sense, was “gifted” the position, and WITH that position comes certain “perks”, and one of those is respect.

In the same way, we, because of who WE are, DESERVE God’s grace.

And there goes those hackles again. I know. I felt them, too. But let me explain.

We deserve God’s grace not because we did or can EVER do anything to “merit” it, but because of who He made us to be. He formed us IN HIS image and calls us ALL His “children.” Yes, even those of us who are currently “astray”. To be “lost” implies ownership. We are all belong to Him, and nothing we do can change that. We can DENY His Fathership over us but that changes nothing. And with that “position” as God’s child comes certain “perks”. And these are God’s unconditional love, His mercy AND His grace. These are a given, a reality that exists whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. God FAVORS you. In the words of the character of “God” in The Shack, He “is especially fond” of you, and me, and every one of us. At Jesus’ birth, the angels declared, “Peace, goodwill on earth, on whom His favor rests.” That’s not JUST a collective statement. It goes for EACH person. God’s favor (GRACE) rests on YOU. Because you, as part of mankind — God’s special, Spirit-breathed creation — DESERVE that grace and love because of who you are to God, your value to Him. And nothing you do will change that for the worse OR for the better. Nothing will earn you LESS of God’s grace. Nothing will earn you MORE of God’s grace. Because it’s not about YOU, but about who you are to HIM. And, by extension, who EVERYONE you meet is to God.

So, learn to be OK with DESERVING God’s grace. AND learn to give your OWN grace to everyone you meet, because, regardless of THEIR actions, they ALSO deserve God’s grace. Say it out loud. Not as a matter of PRIDE (cause you didn’t do anything), but as a matter of confidence (trust) in God. You can KNOW that God is FOR you, favoring you, desiring your best, because you are His precious child.

And you deserve it. 🙂