The Futile Gospel of Behavior Modification

We have a problem here in the modern American Evangelical church. The problem isn’t the Bible, or Jesus; it’s us. We, by-and-large, preach a gospel of behavior modification. We tell people, “Come to Jesus,” but don’t accept them until they look like us.

The problem is that instead of making disciples, we’re trying to make clones. We forget that we were once sinners in need of a savior; consequently, we say we’re down with grace,  but either explicitly, or implicitly, tell folks to come to Jesus.

But only after they’ve cleaned themselves up.

The irony here is that who among us can even do that: clean ourselves up? As if. Else why would we need a savior?
We take God’s free gift of life, and make the price of entry too high. Much like the Pharisees of old. We take the Gospel, and turn it into rules of the road. Rules that we ourselves, if we’re honest, can’t often attain to. I mean Jesus said that He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Meaning that it’s our duty to proclaim this message–not worry if it’s been received. Or try to change the mores of a fallen world. We say: “Come as you are.” But do we really mean it.

Come as you are… but not if you have some sin we don’t approve of. Jesus might accept you. But we don’t. We’re the gatekeepers of orthodoxy, of faith and practice. And you can’t come to our party if ______. You change your behavior first, and then we’ll talk.

It’s as if we don’t believe in the Holy Spirit anymore. And his ministry to “convict the world of sin, righteousnes, and judgment.”

If the Parable of the Sower is in any way a reliable guide, ours is to proclaim the message. Not make the hearts receptive. That’s between others and God. Further on in that chapter in Matthew 13:30, it says:

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

The point being that the tares (weeds) and the wheat were to grow together, and that God would do the reaping. He knows who’s His, and who isn’t. Our business is to proclaim, make disciples (but not clones), and trust Him with the outcome. A tall order, I know: to trust.

Who among us can even change our own heart? Why do we think we can change another’s?

The Gospel of Behavior Modification needs to die. Because it’s not a message of imposition: of enforcing change from the outside. It’s about lifechange,  about transformation from the inside out.

What do you think? What do you have to say?

Comments

comments

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    We aren’t simply modified. We become new. New us.

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