Chapter 27 in a Series

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The majority do not wake up in the morning intentionally deciding who they are going to make miserable that day or to find ways to carry out an injustice. The book of Micah’s theme rebukes the criticism or apathy that seems to be on autopilot to instead extending justice and kindness to others. His theme is summed up in 6:6–8, “To act justly, to embrace mercy for others and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah’s name means “Who is like the Lord?” He understands God’s desire for the moral qualities (provided in the covenant) on the part of His worshipers rather than just sacrifices and burnt offerings.

Micah writes to both capitals of the northern and southern kingdoms: Samaria and Jerusalem. His prophecy stems from his sensitivity to the cruelness and social ills especially occurring in the small towns/villages. Micah is from a small town like Amos, as well as a contemporary of Isaiah.  In this prophetic book, the Messiah’s birthplace is cited to be in Bethlehem.  In the later part of Micah 3:11, the prosperous are accused, “Yet they look for the Lord’s support, and say ‘Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.’”

Once upon a time, living in America assumed one lived in a Judeo- Christian nation.  Our country started out in that direction, now religions are more diverse, and respect and tolerance are given to that freedom of expression. To the point that Christianity has gotten marginalized while upholding others First Amendment rights.  I think we claim the distinction as a “Christian nation,” but slip into avoiding the consequences of our actions (or lack there of)  assuming we are guaranteed to be blessed, as a country its claim to it.

A young girl I was mentoring in an after-school program wanted to go home with me, spend the night at my house.  I said no, that was against the rules and besides how did she know I was a good person?  She said it was because she knew I was a Christian.   Her youthful innocence and trust, to say the least, frightened me.  I asked, “If a man said he was a Christian and offered a ride home, would you go with him?”  She understood my comparison.  However, being young, she was embarrassed by probably what she perceived as rejection and left abruptly in tears. I wondered, how many children think someone is okay to trust someone with claims of being a Christian?  Years later, this same young girl, now a teenager, was walking in front of my house.  I was sitting on the front porch, and she smiled at me.  I recognized her beautiful smile and said hi, but her friends called her down for acknowledging me.  She didn’t respond to me verbally, but as I watched her walk away, she shyly and sweetly flipped her arm behind her back, so her friends couldn’t see, and waved her hello.  I saw how she was working her way through the pressures of her life and trying to be true to herself.

I was told a story within a story about a person with the forethought of committing a future wrongdoing, confessing it to his pastor beforehand yet fully intending on preceding ahead with the transgression.  In this case, the person asked for communion beforehand.  It was a case of taking grace as an occasion to sin., misappropriated and misunderstood. Martin Luther had a comparable parable of a bank robber who was intent on committing his crime the following day yet wanted to take communion for forgiveness beforehand as if somehow that sanctioned or justified it.  Luther refused this man communion as did the pastor telling me his similar story.  The pastor shared Luther’s analogy with the confessor.  When a person continues a course of action that is wrong, thinking they have the justification because of asking for forgiveness beforehand through communion, that is cheap grace.

The term “cheap grace’ was coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship. He defines it as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is one without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”  Put another way: “I’m not going to change the gospel and the grace afforded to me through Jesus, but I am going to cheapen it because I can.”

In Bonhoeffer’s definition of ‘cheap grace”, he has an emphasis, as well as a de-emphasis on what is important. “The emphasis is the benefits of Christianity without the costs involved; cheap grace seeks to negate the cost of discipleship from people. It seeks to claim that as long as we make a profession of faith, we are saved.”

We are not just saved by our profession of faith. We are not saved by repeating the Sinner’s Prayer. Nor are we saved by signing the attendance card or book in church or walking down the church aisle. These tend to be a doctrinal issue between denominations. Reviewing Hebrews 10:26-31, 1Corinthians 10:11-13 informs me on this. We are saved by living out an active faith (cf. Jas. 2:14-26) and turning away from our sinful nature. It is not a transaction; it’s a transformation.  The Apostle Paul says it best when he wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (cf. 2Cor. 5:17). God’s grace for us came at a cost, but not to us. We cannot earn it yet it is provided.

I always hope people don’t withhold themselves from communion because they think they are not currently in a state to receive the reminder of Jesus, the mystical representation in Communion. Communion has been compared, by some, to “the church standing between Christ and a person.” Conversely, others call it “giving Christ His due (in remembrance).” Remembering Him makes us more aware of our brokenness and His forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not the chief purpose of communion, but it is an essential part of it.  One of the mysteries of communion is the sense that it is about the future hope believers share. If the Bible is God’s love letter to us, then holy communion is His hug.

 

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