DON'T HELP!!! What strange advice.
Every lifeguard knows the best advice to give when attempting to rescue a drowning person-
"Don't help, don't try to swim, just go limp,
relax completely in my arms,
and we will both make it safely to shore."
A drowning person must exhaust themselves as quickly as possible. Better yet, just go limp, relax completely, don’t fight their lifesaver, and let the expert do their job. But, that goes against the natural, powerful instinct to do anything in order to survive. And "doing anything in order to survive," causes the drowning person to unwitting fight against the very one who can save them.
What Activates True Grace?
And so it is with the mystery and miracle of New Covenant Grace. The simple, most power truth about how New Covenant grace is activated within us can be found in Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5-
"God must oppose the proud, but He freely gives His transforming grace to the humble."
So, how does this proud/humble idea work?
Throughout Scripture, yeast is used to describe puffed up arrogance, human pride that’s void of power, hot air instead of true substance. At Passover, Jewish families would search the house and get rid of all leaven, all yeast. Jesus warned the disciples to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” because their pride twisted their view of Scripture and made their teaching arrogant and powerless. (Matt 16:11-12)
Yeast: Powerful, Infecting and Life-Changing
But here Jesus uses the metaphor of how yeast affects dough in a completely new and positive way. “Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." (Luke 13:20-21 NIV)
Here, Jesus uses yeast as a metaphor to describe how the power of His Kingdom spreads from one person to another, infecting and transforming them in the process. When a little yeast is mixed into a large amount of dough, given enough time, the entire lump becomes affected, or “infected”, by the yeast. When the message of His Kingdom is mixed into the human heart it has the power to change lives!
We have been asking you to submit questions for Mark to answer as part of the new AskMark section of our site, and a few of them we are featuring here in the blog. Here is a recent question I think many Christians struggle with.
I wonder why Jesus spoke some "law oriented" verses in NT. For example, John 14:15 "If you love me, keep my commandments." I assume the answer is Jesus was alive at that time or he was talking to his "law oriented" disciples or Paul was not there yet to start the Grace gospel. Can you help? Jim from PA
Thanks for helping other people who are wondering the same thing.
Your question about why Jesus made so many statements that seem to not only be reinforcing the Law, but raising the bar far higher than Moses did, is very common. In fact, it's one of the most asked questions in our pastors equipping seminars in nations around the world.
I realize you were writing from memory, but it's important to note that what Jesus actually said was, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." I point this out because, as we will see later, this is actually a promise rather than a demand. Think of it as a doctor saying, "If you will take your medicine, you will get well." It's all about cause and effect. So let's wade in.
Jesus Was Born Under the Law
First, we need to see that Jesus was deliberately "born under the Law."
I deeply desire to be a believer who "thinks, meditates, and rolls His Word over and over in my mind." So I was surprised when I first realized that nowhere in the New Testament is the Church referred to as God's Army...never. We are called the Body, family, His building, Church, Bride, etc. But never His army. The angels are called His army but not us. He is the Lord of hosts (angelic armies).
The battle that eternally matters has been won. Jesus declared "It is finish" and embarrassed our adversary by complete defeat through His death and resurrection.
The Eph 6 reference to armor talks about our "struggle" against spiritual powers but it concludes with the purpose of our armor "...so you can stand." Stand, not fight. Each piece of armor refers to what we must believe about Him and what He has done for and in us.
When Paul wrote that the "weapons of our warfare are not carnal" for the "pulling down strongholds", the context shows he is referring to wrong beliefs built in our minds by our adversary.
Paul uses the metaphor of a soldier to show how committed we should be and how others should give so some can "go." Reading Acts, we know he was regularly "run out of town" when riots broke out but he never referred to it as a failure or said, "The devil won." I find it very interesting that when Paul said satan "hindered, blocked our way," he didn't fight but just went on rejoicing!
1 Thessalonians 2:18-20 TNIV
 "For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way."
Now imagine how we might react to that situation. It certainly "sounds" like the devil won. But the next verse shows that it simply didn't matter to Paul because he lived in rest believing that God would make it all work together for his good. Here's the next verse-
 "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy."
And why does this matter?
I suggest that the more we see ourselves as God's army, the more we fall prey to a "works mentality." We feel we must fight and then we view victory and failure through the lens of immediate circumstances. We begin to "lean to our own understanding" about the purpose for suffering and trials.
We start viewing suffering as direct attacks of the enemy and somehow a failure on our part. But James and Peter said we should rejoice in suffering and trials, not fight anything. Then we starting looking at Old Testament verses to explain our view of warfare. War was real for them because they were setting up a literal nation and because Jesus had not yet "disarmed" all spiritual enemies.
Col 2:15 should be our foundational belief. "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
1 Peter 3:21-22 TNIV
 "… It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand —with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."
We are called to a life (not a day) of Sabbath rest, not warfare.
I want to grow in my understanding of the Sabbath-Rest referred to in Heb 4:1- "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it."
Hebrews 4:9-10 TNIV
 "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;  for those who enter God’s rest also rest from their own work, just as God did from his."
The war is in our minds where we must constantly be renewed so we believe the right things.
Jesus gave us a promise about the life He wants to give us.
Matthew 11:28-30 TNIV
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light .”
Let's pursue joy in trials, peace in suffering and the eternal reward of enjoying His complete victory! How? By fixing our eyes on Him, all He has done and all His Spirit of grace is doing inside of us right now!
"...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Heb 12:2
This is not intended to be criticism of anyone who has used this phrase. It is simply something to think about.
There is a common theme that runs through a lot of teaching about holiness and sanctification. This theme is based on faulty human logic and shows an important misunderstanding of the difference in the Old and New Covenants. And the inevitable result is confidence-stealing condemnation.
I saw this logic recently in a very sincere social media post:
“If you put a drop of sewage in bottled water, would you still drink it? No, of course not! In the same way, one drop of compromise contaminates the ENTIRE vessel of our lives. So we must completely sanctify ourselves so He can fill us.”
Really? Is this true? Is this a New Covenant truth intended to “Set Us Free”?
To arrive at the right conclusion, we must start at the right starting point. But this kind of thinking, even though it is so prevalent in current teaching, is just plain wrong and very damaging. It is the conclusion of faulty human logic that starts at the wrong starting point and inevitably takes us to the wrong place.
The logic used in the quote above begins with a question.
“If you put one drop of sewage in a bottle of water, would you still drink it?”
The obvious answer is, “Ick! I wouldn’t drink something that has sewage in it!” The logical conclusion is that God wouldn’t drink it either. And if that bottle of water is supposed to be us, then we conclude God would never want to “drink us” if we have “even a drop of sewage in us”. But this kind of thinking is wrong and leads us into condemnation because we are using human logic instead of thinking with a New Covenant mindset.
There is a huge hole in this logic. We began the example thinking about water being used for drinking.
But God doesn’t drink us! We drink Him. And as we do, His water cleanses us.
Heb 10:22- “…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” NIV
Eph 5:25-26- “…just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…” NIV
God does indeed pour the pure water of the Holy Spirit into our “dirty vessels”! That’s how He cleanses us so we become more and more sanctified in our minds, our motivations and our behavior. We do not contaminate God’s holiness with our unholiness. His holiness cleanses our unholiness. His holiness is medicinal and it heals our weaknesses.
God is not afraid that somehow we will infect Him with our weaknesses. Our sin and weakness doesn’t infect Him; His grace infects us with His transforming power.
Matt 13:33- "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." NIV
Just a little bit of yeast left in a loaf of dough will eventually “infect” the whole loaf. That is the promise of the New Covenant; Him, in us, changing us from the inside out! This is the right place to start.
New Covenant grace is the infection of transforming power
that spreads through human contact when we simply talk about Him.
2 Cor 3:18- “And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” NLT
And just to set the record straight, there is at least a drop, a miniscule amount of sewage, in nearly all drinking water. But our immune system usually counterattacks and neutralizes the impurities. As God’s children, we have a spiritual immune system to fight off impurities; Christ in us, the hope of Glory!
Love God and Do What You Want
By Amanda Drake Cromley & Mark Drake
First, a Word from Amanda -
One of the most freeing pieces of advice my father ever gave me was “Love God and do what you want.” At first I was taken aback by its almost jarring simplicity. And it certainly didn’t sound anything like the “super spiritual” words of guidance you hear from most preachers.
But as he went on to explain this revelation that had been so liberating for him and eliminated so much stress and worry in his own life, I realized he was right.
Psalm 37:4 tells us to delight in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our heart. The best possible way for that to happen is for God’s desires to become our own. And as we love God more and more (delight in Him), that is exactly what happens. His desires for our lives become our desires.
And do you know what else I’ve realized? God can handle our mistakes. He knows we’re going to make poor choices sometimes. A lot of times, actually. And since He knows what we need before we can even think to ask, he has already planned a way for us to move past those mistakes and get back on the right track.
The mercy he poured out at the cross already provided a way back from our poor choices. And His transforming grace ensures we don’t remain in our mess. What an amazing Father.
- Amanda Drake Cromley
And, of course, now a word from my dad:
What is our Faith in?
- by Mark Drake
I know this idea of “Do what you want,” scares a lot of people. I have heard it many times. “If you tell people this, they will think it means they can just do any carnal, selfish thing they want.” I used to think this way myself. Until I began asking myself, “How did they do this in the New Testament and what did they put their faith in?”
How did Paul and his team decide where they would go next? They went where they felt like they should go; where they wanted to go. They put their faith in Christ living, by His Spirit, in and through them. They trusted the Spirit leading them from the inside out. And the only time we’re aware of that they had a sign or dramatic “leading,” was when the Spirit told them to NOT go into Asia, yet. It wasn’t God’s timing, yet. Later, when God’s will and God’s timing came together, they traveled into Asia, to Ephesus, and had the greatest numerical success ever. Beyond that they just went where logic guided them.
Paul didn’t teach that there was some kind mystical “perfect will of God” that only the super-spiritual ones can walk in while the rest of us stumble around in some kind of “permissible will of God.” What he did teach was to put our faith in the Spirit living in us to mold our “wants” to His “wants.”
The more we become aware of Him in us, the more we’ll realize He is unconsciously leading us. As we learn to walk humbly before the Lord, we can expect Him to open and close doors as He sees fit. And our humility will keep us open to all the ways God can lead us, including through other people.
When Jesus was challenged with, “What is the greatest commandment?” He didn’t respond with one of the Big Ten. Instead, He said, “Love God with all you are.” But that seems to be much too simple. Jesus responded with that answer because He understood what happens when a person truly responds to God’s love for them by loving Him back. What happens when I do this? The miracle of Christ in me begins to grow molding my desires to His.
The reason “Love God” seems too simple to us is because we don’t really believe what they believed in the days of the early church. We must put our faith in what they put their faith in; Christ is in me, changing me and leading me from within. We must believe that when someone chooses to respond to the love of God by loving Him back, a miracle begins! And He who started this miracle, He will complete in you! (Phil. 1:6)
One More Thing…
By the way, no good father says to his kids, “You must do what I want you to do. Your life will only work right when you exactly what I want you to do. If you don’t everything I want you to do, it will go really bad for you. And, oh yeah, you are going to have to guess what it is because I’m not telling.”
So relax, your Father is not just good, He’s the best!
Proverbs 22:6- “Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This proverb, so often taken out of context, has been heaping guilt and condemnation on generations of parents and I think it is time that it stops. If the choices of grown children were dictated by how well their parents raised them, then God would be the worst father of all. Just look at His kids and the choices we repeatedly make.
If parents are responsible for the bad choices their children make, why don’t we blame the heavenly Father for the choices His kids make? Because we know that we have free will; and we know that we each make our own choices, good or bad, and we don’t blame God for our bad choices. The Father is always seeking to teach and guide His children with wisdom, but He always gives them free choice.
From the tree placed right in the middle of the Garden of Eden, to every circumstance we are faced with in our lives, God does not seek to control our behavior by force of His power, but He seeks to teach and lead us by giving us choices. He then empowers us to follow through on our righteous choices and reap the reward. When we acknowledge our bad choices, He even redeems them.
The First Kids
God is not interested in just controlling our behavior so that our actions are always righteous. He wants us to learn how to look to Him for the guidance and empowerment to make good choices.
If God wanted to control Adam and Eve’s choice by force, all He had to do was put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in a place they couldn’t reach. That would have insured good behavior, but it would not have been free choice and nothing would have been learned.
Instead, He placed the tree in the middle of the garden, where they saw it everyday. God wanted them and all their children to learn to look to Him for His wisdom in the choices they made.
So What About Human Parents?
So why is it any different with human parents? Why do we make imperfect, extremely fallible human parents more responsible for the choices of their children than the heavenly Father is for His kids? Ezekiel 18 says over and over- If the father chooses well but the son chooses poorly, the father is not to blame. Conversely, if the father makes bad choices but the child makes good choices, the child bears no guilt for the father’s choice.
Read Ezk. 18 for yourself and plant its truth firmly in your heart. God repeats it over and over, in several different ways; we are all responsible for our own choices. Apparently, He feels strongly about this idea of personal responsibility.
The Law of Sowing and Reaping
Remember, the law of sowing and reaping is in the New Covenant. (Gal. 6) Reaping bad results from making bad choices is not God’s angry judgment. It is actually God’s love working for our good. It is the simple result of our choices. So don’t blame God.
When you tell your child, “Don’t touch the hot stove,” and they choose to touch it anyway, they get burned. But they don’t look at you and scream, “Why did YOU burn me?” Even a child understands that you didn’t do that to them. They caused it by their choice. And this is the most important thing we can teach our children. Choices have consequences!
Genetics or Environment: A Matter of Choice
Does the example of our parents influence us? Of course. Does the environment we are raised in have an affect on us? Absolutely. But in the final analysis, each person is fully responsible for their choices. And when we exercise our choice to make Jesus Christ the owner of our life, we have the promise that we are now a new creation in Him. We have started a new genealogy based on our heritage through Christ, apart from our natural family.
We often see this when two children are raised in the same alcoholic family. One may grow up to be an alcoholic, choosing to repeat the sins of their parents. Yet, the other child sees the destruction alcohol has caused and chooses to never drink. One may grow to be bitter and resentful of the failure of the parents; while the other chooses to have compassion and live in forgiveness.
We even see this in non-believers who make these choices by human will power. How much more should it be true for those of us who are empowered by Christ’s life within us?
The Prodigal Son – Who Is To Blame?
Look at the story of the prodigal son. This story tells us about a series of choices a young man made because he was given the right to choose for himself. And he made some terrible choices that brought painful results. However, he knew that when he was ready to make a new choice, the door to home, and his father’s heart, was always open.
How much blame did the father in this story deserve? None. Jesus gives no indication that he was a bad parent. No doubt, the father heard the stories about his son’s foolish decisions. But he never protected him from the consequences. It was the consequences that brought the son to his senses. Was it painful to watch? I am sure it was. But was it worth it? Absolutely!
Remember, the elder son had all the outwardly righteous behavior, but his heart was filled with bitterness. Forgiveness and restoration came to the younger son who learned through his consequences and came to fully embrace the father’s love. We don’t know if the elder son, who’s outward behavior seemed good, ever came to enjoy the unconditional love of his father.
Be Good Parents…Unto The Lord
Should we seek to be the best parents we can be? Certainly. Not so much for the sake of the children, but to walk pleasing to the Lord for ourselves. My wife and I have eleven divorces and remarriages between our four parents. They did not set a good example. But we made a different choice. And the power of God’s grace living in and through us has enabled us to set a completely different example.
After over forty years of marriage, we have set a very different example, but we have been far, far from being perfect parents. Nonetheless, it is always up to our children to decide the choices they will make for their own lives.
Let Them Fail
Be glad when your children make a bad choice because now they will have an opportunity to learn important life-long lessons. Don’t be so quick to protect your children from the consequences of their poor choices. Certainly, this must be age-appropriate, but let your children learn that choices have consequences. Let them know you love them too much to insulate them from these valuable lessons.
Pray for your children. Do not pray that God will force them to serve Him, because God will not answer in that way. But pray that the goodness of God will overwhelm your children and that they will choose to respond by loving Him back! “Do you not know that is the goodness of God that leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)
If you feel you have been a poor parent, then humble yourself, repent to your children and ask their forgiveness. And, regardless of their response, be free of fear, shame and condemnation…because Jesus paid for that sin just as He paid for all other sins!
I strongly recommend Danny Silk’s book, “Loving Our Kids on Purpose” as one of the very best resources on how to parent children through the power of true grace and truly represent the nature of the Father to our children.
For years I taught what had been taught to me- “When God looks at you, He doesn’t see you, He only sees Jesus.” That may sound sweet in some religious way but it is just plain wrong. And what it really says is that if God did see you, as you really are, He wouldn’t like you at all! The good news is the Bible actually teaches the exact opposite.
This mistaken belief is often coupled with the statement that God is so holy He cannot “look” upon any unholiness. Of course, this is not true. If it was true, God could not see any human being on earth nor the very creation itself which has been plunged into a fallen state, groaning in travail, until the “restoration of all things”. (Acts 3)
But what does the scripture actually tell us? (Remember, this is in the New Covenant)
Heb 4:12-13- “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” NASB
This passage, and many others, tells us that God sees everything!
This should be tremendous news to us because it also says that He sees our thoughts and hearts! This means we are not judged by our actions but the intent, or faith, of our heart. Jesus paid for our sins, all of them, and God sees the faith of our hearts as we trust in His free gift of righteousness based on the actions of Christ.
This is why the very next verse says…
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” (Heb 4:14) NASB
Our confession must be that we are made righteous through the action of our high priest, Jesus, the Son of God. God sees us, everything about us. He understands our present weaknesses and loves us completely because He also sees us completed in eternity through the work of Christ.
So what must we be doing now?Listen to the final statement of this passage in Hebrews…
“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:16 NASB)
What should we be doing now?Drawing near to Him with confidence because He sees us and loves us; AND He is completing the work of sanctification in us. He who has justified us is the One who is presently sanctifying us from the inside out. This is the work of true grace!
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6-7) NASB
For much more on this subject see Mark’s book, “God’s Brilliant Cure…for fear, shame and condemnation”.
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, I will hear from heaven and heal their land.”
2 Chron. 7:14 is used so freely today without even asking ourselves, “Who was God speaking to, what was He referring to and how should it effect us now?"
Huge prayer gatherings are based on the idea that if we will just pray hard enough, long enough and with enough people, God will “heal” America and somehow the Kingdom of God will come here (or into whatever country the praying believers currently live in). But we must ask if this is actually a New Covenant concept or if we have missed the point completely.
Why Is This Important?
This is an important question because it deals with the very foundation of understanding the shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. What actually makes the New Covenant, new? In the Old Covenant, the land was literal and the kingdom was visible. In the New Covenant, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “The Kingdom of God is within you“; not matter what nation you live in.
So this question deals with how the Old Testament “shadow” of the natural Kingdom of God through the literal people of Israel, has changed to the “substance” of the spiritual Kingdom of God within everyone who has made Jesus King of their lives…no matter what country they live in.
We are told in passages such as Col. 2:17, and Heb. 10:1, that the Old Covenant, and everything pertaining to it, are shadows of what would be fulfilled in Christ. The Word says He is the substance of all Old Testament shadows. This truth is what makes the New Covenant actually NEW.
How Should We Read The Old Testament?
Whenever we read the Old Testament we must always ask ourselves, “How is this fulfilled in Christ?” Remember, Heb. 1:1 tells that in the Old Testament, God spoke His words and gave revelation of His will through the prophets; but now He has spoken through His Son.
2 Chronicles 7 talks about the temple, the land and the throne of David. So what does this mean in the New Covenant? Why didn’t any of the New Testament writers, all Jewish men, instruct the believers to follow the command of 2 Chron. 7:14? My suggestion is that they knew it was already fulfilled.
The New Testament clearly tells us that Jesus is the true temple; and because He lives in us, we are the temple of God on the earth. The land is a shadow of what Jesus clearly defined as His kingdom within the hearts of people from every nation, tongue and tribe. And one of the most important truths about the Christ is that He is the heir to the throne and kingship foreshadowed in David. This is why the New Testament writers called us strangers and pilgrims in this present world.
The Promise Has Already Been Fulfilled!
The promise of 2 Chron. 7:14 has already been fulfilled in Christ. God has fulfilled His own promise through His own Son by bringing His Kingdom into human hearts; and promising that His Kingdom will one day rule over all the earth. Now, anyone who receives Him as king, receives the healing of 2 Chron. 7:14. We are His Kingdom, we are His land.
God shows no respect to genetics, racial heritage or geography. In Christ, He has made one new man out of every Jew and Gentile who believe. And one day He will return and establish a literal kingdom that will cover the earth by making all things new. (2 Peter 3:13)
Isn’t it good for people to come together and pray? It is, if we come together and pray according to the will of God. There is no model in the New Testament of praying for the healing of individual nations or individual lands. But there are several models for praying for “doors to open for the declaration of the mystery of Christ” (Col.4:3). 1 Tim 2:1-4 gives us an excellent model.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Who Was This Written To?
This was written to people who were being severely persecuted by the Roman government; in many cases, they were being hunted down like animals. And this was not a call for some large gathering but instruction for each believer as part of their everyday life.
Rather than pray for some kind of “healing of the literal land“ now, we are told to pray for His Kingdom to come into the hearts of more and more people, now. And the King wants to use us to fulfill that prayer every time we share the Gospel, which is “the power of God for salvation to all who will believe, the Jew first and also to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16).
So, What Do We Do Instead?
We will be far, far more fruitful if we spend more time with people, sharing the Gospel of Grace (Christ wants to live in you) and demonstrating His goodness, since it is His goodness that causes people to repent and brings healing into the “land” of human hearts. (Rom. 2:24)
Instead of spending so much time, effort and money in so many large prayer gatherings, perhaps we would be better served if we spent far more time, effort and money to “Go into all the world and make disciples in every nation…”
Bono of U2 Speaks about “Grace over Karma”This is a very interesting article taken from an interview with Bono of the band U2. Of course, it’s not entirely accurate in it’s definition of true grace since it speaks more of mercy than true grace.
However, I found it to be extremely interesting…and a great way to talk to the world about the Gospel and the most important question of all- Who is this Christ?. He clearly makes no apology for what he believes!
Bono Interview: Grace Over Karma
(Excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas ) (Taken from the web site- The Poached Egg)
Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.
Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?
Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.
Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows
Assayas: So you won’t be critical.
Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.
Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?
Bono: We all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.
Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?
Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”
Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.
Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.
Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.
Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?
Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s far fetched.
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.
Mark Drake is an internationally known author, teacher and leader. He focuses on equipping leaders around the world in New Covenant Grace.