7/31/16 Mark about 40
“What did I do to deserve this?” That’s probably one of the most important questions answered in the Bible. But what does it refer to? Suffering? Heaven? Hell? I had a recent conversation in which we talked about all three, and the Bible has answers – but not easy soundbites - for all of them.
I was at my grocery store and I can’t believe they have their own live piano player but at times they do, and the conversation was with one of their pianists – Mark – while he was on break from his piano playing gig. I asked about his beliefs and found out that he has a unique perspective because he is also hired by a black Baptist church to play the organ for them during their church services, yet he is not a believer and so he participates in their services as an outsider from within. One observation he made from this experience was how many of the church members, as they age, begin to doubt their salvation, wondering if they have done enough during their lives to deserve heaven. Mark also talked about his sister who has suffered from a brain aneurism and the debilitating effect it has had on her. He wondered what she had done to deserve such a horrible medical condition. Finally we talked about his belief that heaven is possible but that no one would deserve hell if God is to be truly loving.
So what DO we deserve? The Bible devotes large sections – such as the entire book of Job – in speaking to these questions, so I listened to his questions and didn’t attempt to give trite, sound-bite answers, just as I won’t do here as I always try to keep my outreach stories short. But what I did do is point to the foundation for the answers to these questions – our broken relationship with God as a result of both Adam’s sin in Genesis and the many sins in our own lives. If the foundation isn’t right the whole house will be crooked, and if our understanding of our condemnation for sin beginning in Genesis isn’t right there is no way we can find acceptable answers to these questions. Without these foundational truths life and heaven itself become an entitlement; God’s wrath, judgment and punishment become unbelievable; and so God’s sacrifice at the cross and His grace and mercy are taken for granted and often overlooked as unnecessary.
What do we deserve? In Genesis 2, God said of the forbidden fruit “…when you eat from it you will certainly die.” And so we are dead, spiritually dead in our sins, cut off from a right relationship with God without Jesus. Every day of physical life is an act of mercy on God’s part, that we might yet repent and believe and be saved, to be restored to life and a right relationship with God, adopted into His family as children of our heavenly Father. We deserve what we don’t want – the just punishment for our sins, but we need what we don’t deserve – God’s mercy in Christ. What do we deserve? The Bible is full of answers, but they are by no means short or easy, and everyone should struggle with them, as I hope Mark will continue to do.