Grace and getting the “W”
Last night, my favorite NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, beat the San Francisco 49’ers 33-30 on a 27-yard Mason Crosby field goal as time expired. That score capped off a fourth quarter comeback and a drive that had started on the Packers’ own 10-yard line with only a minute left in the game. It also was a measure of redemption for Crosby, a usually sure-footed kicker, who had a week earlier missed four field goals and a PAT in a crushing loss in Detroit.
In the NFL, a win of 3 points is still a win. But you wouldn’t have known that from some of the fans and commentators’ analyses of the game! The desire was for total domination of what was thought to be an inferior opponent playing with their back-up quarterback. For every positive comment there were four or five negative ones. There were plenty of dire predictions of post-bye perdition. It was the negativity bias on >ahem< steroids.
We, especially men, like to be in control in all phases of the game of life: physical, emotional, intellectual and (when we think about it) spiritual. We can easily be deluded into thinking that the harder we work, the more we do, the higher our levels of performance and achievement, the more we will be able to meet our essential human needs for self-esteem, the love of others, a sense of belonging and personal accomplishment.
Paul and Jesus tell us otherwise. Observance of the externals, no matter how laudable, can easily become idolatry. We can be seduced by our own God-given talents and powers. We can forget, overlook or neglect the presence and power of God in our midst. We can fall from grace if we refuse to stand on it.
Our work is important. Indeed, it is essential. But what really matters, Paul assured the Galatians, is “only faith working through love.” That love starts with the One who is love itself. Faith is both God’s gift and our response. My work is part of a conversation with the Creator whose own work brought me into being.