Impunity Does Not Imply Immunity

29 06 2011

‘Another World’ and ‘Days of Our Lives’ filled my noontime agenda at one time in my life.  ‘Another World’ is no longer on-air so I look forward to an hour catching up with the ‘Days of Our Lives’ from time to time.  The main characters are mostly the same, the younger ones are new to the daytime Grammy game, yet both still give their best ability to give virtue status to the demonstration of impunity.  Let me explain…first impunity is a noun meaning ‘exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action.’ Second, it (impunity) seems to be so commonplace in society that we no longer give it the time of day or at least any real thought.  In fact, the daytime dramas thrive on doing and saying anything with total disregard to the impact on the lives of others and the psyche of those watching.  Maybe the legacy of the daytime drama is that of raising impunity to the level of virtue.

Within the ministry of reconciliation, impunity has no standing.  To be fully reconciled – with God through Jesus Christ and with one another – we repent of our sinful actions, turning toward the forgiving One and asking to be forgiven.  If we believe that our actions never result in injury or that we are free through Christ and not punished therefore we don’t need to confess our actions – then we are in error.

Even on the lips of Jesus we hear the word – Repent!  We hear the word – obey!  We hear the command – love!  Jesus knew that because we sin with every breath we take and cannot fully come to him without the Holy Spirit – we must remain in a constant ready-state to repent.  A Christian only has to read through the confession for Good Friday Worship to know what needs repenting – it is every move and thought we ever make.  An excerpt from a prayer by Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell…

We confess to You, our Lord and Savior,
that we have betrayed and denied You,
forgotten and doubted You.
When our faith is tested, we wonder where You are.
When we see injustice in the world, we often stand by,
we turn our backs, we ignore the cries of others.
We confess that again and again we deny You
and betray You with our silence
when we fail to proclaim Your Good News,
when we fail to live out Your teachings
and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Forgive us, O God, and help us to truly repent.

With impunity as our guide and mantra we may never have to pray again.  Yet, we all know in our hearts that the forgiveness we receive from true repentance is not immunity.  For the same injury we have inflicted on others with our words, actions and non-actions is known by God.  We can never assume immunity from impunity.  The real zinger is that we are responsible for ALL our words, actions and non-actions – even the ones we are not aware of.  We even sin by proxy – directing or enabling others to do our sin.  For all these reasons – we are dreadfully lost and in need of a Savior.  God provides.

If we are to take even a small step toward reconciliation with God, God’s creation, one another we must know that impunity does not mean immunity.  That all our actions – even writing this BLOG – is sin.  Even when we are doing good – we sin.  Therefore, we live in a constant-state of ready-repentance.

In this world, impunity is rewarded.  Let me explain – the blame game that is promulgated by politicians, proprietors, and prognosticators makes it a lucrative venture to injure another movement, party or person.  One has only to read or listen to the daily propaganda from political pundits on both sides – liberal and conservative – to know that impunity is a virtue.  The more we can reveal about the sins of another the better our candidate, program or ideology will be.  What about advertising?  Our proprietors want to make sure we know that their product is better, improved, and of value compared to their competitor.  Prognosticators see through their crystal ball and look at a future which suits their heart instead of relying on the promises of God in Christ Jesus.

As an observer and participant in life, I am never immune from my actions – although after accepting the consequences for my actions I always find a forgiving and loving God.  I have to demonstrate and condition myself each day to make sure I do not talk or act with impunity.  Which also implies that I must repent – for everything – even those things that I am not aware of.  Why – because God sent His Son to die for our sins.  If I act as if I don’t sin, that is impunity – every moment of every day – then I cheapen the grace given by God through Christ on the cross.

I don’t live in ‘Another World’ and I sin all the ‘Days of My Life’.  I am stronger through humility rather than immunity because I am forgiven and sent on a mission from God to bring His glory into my small world in order that the whole world can experience his love and mercy.  Because God acted globally, we can live locally by rejecting the rewards of impunity and never trust that we have immunity – we are saved only by the grace won for us by Christ on the cross.

Simply stated by Paul in the letter to the Romans, Chapter 5, verse 6-8 (Message Bible):

6-8Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

As Jesus states in Matthew 3:2 (New Living Translation) – practice faith today – “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Bondage of the Will

17 06 2011

So it goes…at 12:01 am on 6/17/2011 we filed into the 2D version ($4 cheaper than 3D) of Green Lantern.  The story was familiar, the 21st Century Hollywood twist was not.  Action packed, thrills of dogfights with F35’s and the classic good v. evil.  In the end the super hero defends the planet, reconciles with the girl and everything is well with the world…then you watch the credits and find this was just an introduction of Green Lantern II where fear seems to be a better way to keep order than will.

To make it short, the immortals have harnessed the will of the author of the universe to overcome fear.  The will of the Green Lanterns keeps the universe intact and the established order of things prevails.  Until, it doesn’t.  Then we have the Green Lantern coming to save the day with their own unique ‘willingness’ to defeat the bad guys.  For example, to keep hundreds from being killed by an out of control helicopter, the Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) protecting earth and of course the passion of his desire (the girl) he ‘wills’ a large hot wheels track to appear and take the helicopter – now turned car – on a track away from certain mayhem.

So as always I unwittingly try to intellectualize the plot and the nuances of this film and story.  In this manner, I ruminated on the whole aspect of gathering one’s will to change the world for the better.  Personally, Luke Skywalker and The Force used a similar, but much better rendition of the will technique that spawned sequels and prequels.

As often the case, Martin Luther – who did a lot of ruminating and writing – wrote a paper called ‘The Bondage of the Will.’  In this seminal work, he goes on and on about the free will of creation.  Simply summarized this work states:  “free will is an erroneous, unscriptural doctrine which, ultimately, undermines the gospel itself.”  There is nothing we can do to save ourselves – we are always – even when we are doing good – captured by sin and have death working in us.  Further Luther writes: “Let all the ‘free-will’ in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength.”

So now the whole existence of the Green Lanterns – willing things to keep order – is bunk, rubbish, manure.  Super powers or not – no life form apart from the grace of God – creator, author of all life in the universe – can will God’s saving grace.  Only through Jesus are we saved.

Yes, I am comparing apples and oranges, but the human imagination (aka comic genius) is but a fleeting glimpse of what we really believe our reality to be.  If we are free and not bound by the will of God then why Jesus?  Most comic heroes are manifestations of our inability to truly believe that salvation – saving people – even people in galaxies far, far, away – is the work of the grace of God by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.

Finally, I share with you one of my favorite quotes from Luther in The Bondage of the Will: “All the passages in the Holy Scriptures that mention assistance are they that do away with “free-will”, and these are countless…For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because “free-will” can do nothing.”

So we will always fight the ‘bad guys’ of our own free-will and remain lost but with Jesus and the Holy Spirit we receive grace.  If only we can muster the courage to believe that grace is real we will not need to look to Green Lanterns to save us from despair and death.

***In case you are wondering…I rated the Green Lantern 3 stars since there was really no story line that warranted me to think about what will happen next – action for sure but no suspense.