Parents and Pastors

Now I would remind you, brothers.
— 1 Corinthians 15:1 ESV

Parents are the masters of reminding:

  • “Don’t slouch."
  • "Sit up straight.”
  • “Sip your soup, don't slurp it.”
  • “Look both ways!”
  • “Eat your vegetables.”
  • “Don’t talk back to your mother!”
  • "Brush your teeth before you go to bed!”
  • “This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you.”
  • "Did you flush?"
  • “I love you!”

Pastors are also masters of reminding. Paul writes,

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
— 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Apparently this reminding work is just as essential today as it was back then. Eugene Peterson, pastor and scholar writes,

In fifty years of being a pastor, my most difficult assignment continues to be the task of developing a sense among the people I serve of the soul-transforming implications of grace — a comprehensive,  foundational reorientation from living anxiously by my wits and muscle to living effortlessly in the world of God’s active presence.

Why do Paul and Peterson remind us of this? Because our natural tendency is to live by our "wits and muscle." Our natural tendency is to think:

  • WE have to figure this out.
  • WE have to work harder.
  • WE have to change our kids.
  • WE have to work to please God.

Not so. The basic orientation of the Christian is that of a gift receiver. God comes to us. Jesus comes to us. Grace comes to us.

Remember how Paul put it,

The gospel . . . which you received.

What is the gospel of grace?

Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.

The gospel of grace is something we receive, but humanly speaking we won’t receive it until we see ourselves as totally unable to win God’s favor. That's why C.S. Lewis said,

A man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift.

We did nothing to receive God's favor. Nothing. But for some reason, having received the kindness and favor of God, we think we must -- by our wits and muscle -- keep our act together.

We don't!

The same gracious God who saved us is the same gracious God who sustains us. To use Peterson's words, God is still "actively present" in our lives.

What has you tied up in knots today? What is gnawing at your soul? Why not stop, confess that "wits and muscle" won't do it today. Why not rest in the "active presence" of your good God.

God is still stooping. God is still coming to the rescue. God is still giving generously. That's why Peterson said, "Bye bye wits and muscle." He was resting in the active presence of God. You can to!

Remember that.