Shouldn’t We Have Open Doors?

Who are you?

I’m thinking this week about Identity and the values that define me. Last time (Big ‘Ol House) I talked about inclusion, the notion God’s house provides a really big place with lots of room for differences. To carry that metaphor forward, I believe that big ‘ol house has doors that swing freely in both directions. I (try to) value freedom from fear and coercion.

Teaching adolescents for thirty-five years left me with no hair and a conviction that fear and punishment stunt learning and growth. You may be able to control behavior with fear, but behavior control isn’t education.

I don’t follow Jesus because I fear what’ll happen if I don’t. I think that would make Him incredibly sad. Here’s a piece of what I wrote about coercion in Relentless Grace:

God is not about coercion. God wants me to be whole, happy, and free, and His revelation makes it clear how I can accomplish that. God is too often characterized as threatening; “Do what I command or else” comprises a common misperception of God’s message. God doesn’t threaten.

However, God does make it clear that His Creation has rules and actions have consequences. I tell a child not to touch the fire because he’ll burn his hand. That’s not a threat, it’s education, intended to help the child to avoid pain. God tells me certain actions will harm me because He loves me and wants the best for me. Sometimes the message seems so simple: Here’s how I created you, here’s what will ultimately make you happy and whole.

“But WHY can’t I just do as I wish?” That question’s as silly as the child asking why he can’t touch the fire if he wishes. Why does sin have consequences? Because you can’t value relationship and just do as you please. Because the way you treat yourself, others, and God matters.

But didn’t God coerce and threaten Adam and Eve? Nope. He tried to keep them safe from the evil He knew was present. He knew the harm that would come to them if they followed their own desires and reasoning. God’s command to avoid the tree and its fruit wasn’t a threat designed to control them. It was a warning to those He loved. God knew the consequences. He wanted them to avoid the pain.

God also doesn’t “punish.” Punishment is artificial, designed to coerce someone into following a certain path out of fear. “Don’t touch the fire or I’ll hit you” is a confusing message. Does that imply that it’s OK to touch the fire as long as nobody else knows I did it?

“Hitting” is punishment, while the burn from the fire is a consequence. I don’t think God ever “hits” me to frighten me into doing what He wants, but He does communicate clearly that my decisions and actions have worldly and eternal consequences.

Jesus didn’t threaten or coerce people into accepting Him. He stayed with them, hung out, and allowed their experience to show them the truth. Their lives didn’t change because of what He said, but because they felt the freedom and fullness of relationship with Him.

God’s big ‘ol house is a place of freedom and joy. In that kind of house there’s no place for fear and punishment.

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Copyright 2008-2012 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of: Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.c

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