(Just so you know, the following is not a trick question) Do you see an invitation or a commandment in the following words employed by Eugene Peterson? ‘Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering… Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.’ Rom. 12:2, MSG. If you see ‘commandment,’ if you respond with an ouch at how arduous, unpleasant, riddled with failure this is likely to be, I would like to suggest a second reading, a reading within the context of an always-loving, quick-to-forgive, quick-to-restore, heavenly Father. If you see ‘invitation,’ I see a heart grown tender, receptive, unapologetically aware of ongoing growth needs in all that comes from him: ‘Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle (I might even add, no bait-and-switch). He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.’ James 1:17, MSG.
It’s staggering to ponder the familiar song-image of God having the whole world in his hands https://youtu.be/b4uNT8a4Q1s , being able and willing to take care of every last detail, big or small, of every girl, boy, woman, man on earth – that includes you and me! More, he is aware that in our flesh there is not a single Godward thought, that every iota of approaching him is directly linked to, and spurred on by, the tireless working of the Holy Spirit. Everlasting love assures us that he doesn’t weary in bringing us close time and time again. When James writes, in the verse above, about what God’s love is NOT like, I cringe a bit, recognizing the too-familiar odor of those traits, but just a bit of cringing, because I know he knows what’s in there and he loves me anyway and invites me to wholeness anyway. And do we realize that we cannot possibly fail? The only way that could happen is if we attempted to grow into wholeness on our own strength, our own willpower (as if we would ever try anything so ridiculous!). But we have died to the old and been made alive in Christ through his victory, with his power, with his promises, with his crazy-making love slathered all over us. Anybody else feel like they’ve been invited to a party? PD