Sunday, July 13, 2008

enforcing the code of Grace

I'm a substitute code enforcement officer for a city. I tell people to cut their grass, pick up their junk, paint their garage and generally that they are slobs that never cleaned their rooms when they were kids. Fun job.

There are connections, however, between code enforcement and God that I have come to appreciate. The code (or the law, if that has not already begun to cross your mind as an analogy) is something that truly has a purpose. This is the first lesson I learned. I could not for the longest time justify going up to an elderly lady and tell her she had to paint her garage. Seems rather non-merciful. But the lesson is simple. If she does not paint it, the garage deteriorates and drives down the property value. I am thus both looking out for her investment in her property and the neighboring ones as well by telling her to paint it. And that is the purpose of the law that God gave, to look out for me and my neighbors. Also, it teaches me who my neighbor is and why they matter at all.

Second, since the code is there for protection of something valuable, that which is deemed valuable must in fact be valuable. That was a wordy way of saying we have great worth because God looks out for us, and thus has established a code to protect what He has deemed valuable. He wanted no harm done to us, although harm had entered the world, so the code set us apart from others to show how valuable we are. With that mindset there should never have been a sinning Jew nor a junk car in a backyard of my city.

But there are. There were still sinning Jews no matter how important God told them they were (seriously, think about it: God interacted with them and gave them a rich Promise, told them how they are separate from the nations, how He selected them, how He wanted to protect them. The God of the universe! Should that not have made them be absolutely devoted!?). Also, there are junk cars in people's backyards. The value of their property does not seem to matter when there are other distractions all over. Sure they own a chunk of real estate, of which they earned rather than had been given (such as their life), but that is theirs to decide what to do with. So the junk car is staying no matter how valuable you tell them their property is and how much more it could be. Same with the Jewish nation. They wanted to look like the other nations after awhile. Despite that whole deal of the God of the universe hanging out with them and selecting them!

And then the ultimate clincher. The code exists, but was never the plan. It exists in that we can be sure of what is screwed up in our city, or in the other case ourselves. But it is the usage of the other word, enforcement, that is the true shocker and where the comparison between God and code enforcement ends. To the world He gave His Son. He sacrificed. He demonstrated grace, which by definition is not merely not giving you what you deserve and walking away (think driving by a junkyard without telling you that you have a junkyard), but giving you what you do not deserve instead (think giving you an extra shed to store your junk in).

If grace was the vehicle by which I enforced the code of the city, it would look heavenly. What I would be doing is this. I would go up to someones house and point out that they have a junk pile. I would then proceed to get my gloves out and start cleaning up with them. Maybe I would be doing it all or the majority of the load, but I would certainly be giving them a helping hand. Grass would be cut by the city, but without a charge on the property owner's taxes. Buckets of paint would be filled inside my beat up old cop car instead of warning notices that I cram into doors or into people's faces.

This is God's grace, and where our world of code enforcement does not mirror God. I thought I had been gaining a lot of gusto by telling people they are wrong. I found I need more gusto. I need to participate in the rejuvenation of the person. God sacrificed everything, He complied the code. Not only did He initiate the process of cleaning up our property, He now expects a response. It is either the continuation to dig our heals in against Him (for whatever reason, I can't comprehend why someone would reject such Love anymore) or to pay respect back by demonstrating whatever gratitude we can towards Him by keeping our life up.

That is how backwards we are as people, we simply want justice where we tell people off and hope that they pick their yards up. That is our system. In a Christian nation, we would have Paint Patrol and Junk Eliminators. Not Code Enforcement. It is God's to avenge, God's to judge. Those who do not respond in gratitude for what God has offered will get what is coming for sure because it just does not make sense why people would hate someone paying their penalty for them. Unless of course they witnessed near nothing in terms of grace and redemption on earth, which is all on Christ followers. If they don't see us in their life helping out, what makes them think that God is doing anything, or has done anything?

So enforce the code by acting out the remedy of the code, instead of leaving a ticket in the front door suggesting they stop gluttonizing, stop committing adultery, stop being greedy, stop being angry, etc.

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