Grace comes first
I used to see church as the place where we get right with God. We go there, we listen to the religious professionals, do what they say, and then we (hopefully) get in God’s good graces (for whatever that’s worth) — right?! So, I saw it going like this…
Church => Works => Grace => Afterlife Guarantee
This is the purpose of a works-based religion. We do the works and then we get the grace. Baddabing. Baddaboom.
Side-note: It’s funny how this works-based theme also translates to the secular world. We do the Peloton, we eat the ketogenic things, we do the Headspace app, and then we feel worthy.
I see it now in reverse…
Grace => Works => Church => This-life guarantee
According to scripture, God’s grace came before we were born. And so, by believing the promise that we are eternally worthy in the eyes of our creator, we can be free to do good works without the chains of obligation. Then, we go to church to bear witness to our faith in this promise and share the good news with the community.
Of course, you can try this grace-based switch in the secular world too. Instead of doing the Peloton and eating the ketogenic things in order to feel worthy, feel worthy first and then make your daily life a testament and celebration of this (through your good works of Peloton and Keto or whatever your secular sacraments may be).
I might be wrong, but when I start with my worthiness — not in the works I do, but in the promise God made — my life feels a lot freer and less like a chore. Give it a shot??
P.S. Yes, I know, you could say that you don’t need church. And you kinda don’t. In fact, if the churches in your area are horrid, you’re better off staying home. But if you have a loving and inclusive church community in your area, why rob yourself of the opportunity to go feel small and loved for a while?