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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guilt and Grace 2

Today I'm reading 1 John 4:17-21 “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”

The snow keeps coming! One thing I'm glad about is that we had an invisible fence put in our yard right before the cold weather hit in December. That way we can let Bailey (our dog) out to do his business without having to worry about him running away. And that's great in the early morning and late night bitter cold.

The invisible fence really works. The dog wears a shock collar that picks up a signal from the fence. At first it beeps a warning that he's getting too close; and then if he proceeds he gets shocked. It was interesting to go through the training with the company's dog handlers. They said there were various settings on the shock collar for the size of the dog and the dog's propensity to charge through the shock. Bailey got the 'criminal' level.

I was thinking about why punishment works to change the behavior of a dog like Bailey, but it doesn't seem like punishment really works with people. There are three things that are necessary for punishment to be effective. First, it has to be immediate. Second, it has to be severe enough. And third, it has to be tied directly to the behavior to be changed. That's why the electric fence works. Immediate, severe enough and directly tied to the dog's movements. Effective behavior modification.

With people it's not ever that simple. Rarely - even in our judicial system - is the punishment immediate. The time delay blunts the impact. Often the punishment isn't severe enough to really make a difference; and because the first two things aren't there the third one comes into play. For example, if we really wanted to curb drunk driving - what if every time a person was caught driving drunk the police officer took them out of the car, stood the driver on the side of the road and shot off one of his/her toes? Too severe, I know. But effective!

God doesn't punish us as we deserve. In fact we know Christ took our punishment for us. So the motive in seeing change in our lives is not guilt or fear based on punishment - but just the opposite. Out of gratitude - out of a response of love for the grace we've received from God - that's what motivates us to change. That's what works. We love because he first loved us.

Let Christ's love be the motivating force in your life today!


Today's prayer: (St. Patrick's prayer)

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation

1 comment:

  1. St. Patrick (and your reflection above) just sent me to Psalm 139, especially: "you hem me in-- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."

    I started this day with a huge agenda and some concerns about how to order the day, and how to deal with a few situations I really want to get right. Now I am reminded to surrender to Jesus, to let his love guide me through the day, rather than the fear of not accomplishing all I feel is necessary & doing the right things to make everyone happy.

    I hope that perfect love will drive out fear for the rest of the day.