The Upside-Down Religion

The Upside-Down ReligionImagine yourself walking home from work and suddenly having the idea to stop at the local confectionery. Do you see yourself choosing your favorite cupcake? The waitress places it on a plate for you while you pull your wallet out of your pocket. Only before you could ask about the price, the waitress says it is for free for the rest of your life. How do you react? Are you getting suspicious? What kind of thoughts cross your mind? “Free? There may be a hidden camera or something.”

Now, using this same scenario, let us randomly zoom in on three different religions. The Buddhist religious system is based on the theory of reincarnation and karma. According to their belief, good deeds bring them closer to a fortunate rebirth. Buddhists believe that they reach Nirvana by avoiding the bad, doing the right things in life and purifying their souls through meditation.
Christianity revolves around grace and in believing in Jesus Christ. It promotes doing good, but also gives grace out for free when you do nothing. Grace does not depend on our actions. Compare Christianity to other religions and you will realize that it completely contradicts them all.

Why is it so complicated for us to understand grace?
We often find it hard to accept grace because of all the sinful acts we have done, and will do. “How is it that I am a sinful being and yet, still important to God? Despite the fact that I am never going to be able to live without sin, why does God give me his grace? Surely I will have to fulfill his expectations later, similar to fine print.”

From our human point of view, grace and Christianity is illogical and maybe even unfair. Why does the Father welcome the prodigal son with a feast instead of praising the other son for being faithful? Why does one sinner who repents bring more joy than 99 righteous people? Why does the one who works one hour get paid the same amount as the ones who worked all day long? Why does someone who serves with all his or her heart receive the same grace as the person who does not even care?

On the other hand, our human rules are quite simple to understand: we give so we receive. This is our way of thinking, not God’s. Christianity teaches us that, whatever we do, Jesus will always give us grace if we trust in him. Our good and bad actions will not make grace disappear or grow accordingly. We do not deserve grace.

Jesus welcomes all kinds of people who we might define as failures, lost or less worthy than ourselves, such as the mentally and physically ill, the drug addict, the prostitute and all kinds of other sinners. Society labels the homeless and the alcoholic as an inferior being who stay at the bottom of the food chain. Instead, God places a mirror under the stair. As in, things are turned upside down. In his mirror, they are on top of staircase. We need to understand that we are that lowly person in society. We all are equally important to him regardless of how much or how little we sin.

Some people openly debate that the parable of the prodigal son turns out to be unfair at the end. They see it as this: being faithful and loyal seems less valuable than sinning. Therefore, why not destroy all we have since God will throw us a party anyway? In other words, is it even worth it to live a proper life if sinning and then repenting is even more appreciated?

Let’s take a closer look at Luke 15:27. A servant tells the older brother that the father is celebrating because his younger son has returned home safe and sound. God allows us to live like the prodigal son because he gave us free will. However, we cannot forget this: that kind of life is dangerous and there is no guarantee that we will return safe and sound.

On the other hand, the older son does not even get a goat for his hard work. This is how his dad explains it: “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31). Always being near to God means nothing can happen to us without his consent. It does not mean that nothing bad will happen to us, but it does mean that God is there to help us.

Consider this scenario: while his prodigal brother was away, perhaps the older brother cut his leg while working in the field. Can you see his dad helping him with the bandages? He watched and learned from his dad’s comforting presence. All while the other son is far away, starving and lonely.

So really, the parable is not unfair at all. We need to realize that we are all children of the same Father who loves us unconditionally and longs for us to experience his grace.

Zsofia Schindler is a freelance writer. To contact her email her at [email protected] or visit her blog at bakingfootprints.blogspot.com.

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One Response to “The Upside-Down Religion”

  1. michael2184

    Paul also addresses this in his letter to the Romans:
    “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
    And again,
    “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

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