News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Brad Eades

Does 'the list' consume your life on earth?

Wanted: Christian men and women with perfect church attendance, amazing faith and flawless thought life to represent Christ. Must be available to give the illusion of strength, and not be afraid to help those around them feel inferior and insecure about their weaknesses.

Actually, I have not yet encountered this ad, but some days I wonder. Perhaps just as absurd are the spiritual resumes people feel compelled to give to me when we first meet.

As a hospice chaplain, I am continually meeting people nearing the end of their lives. It breaks my heart each time one of them offers me “the list.”

The list most often is compiled of accomplishments they feel define a good Christian.

While I understand the felt need for “the list,” there is incredible news for followers of Jesus Christ. The list disqualifies you.

Initially this news brings shock and at times despair, because as all good list keepers know, it leaves little else to recommend themselves to God. It only makes sense that those with a stocked list are in better shape than others just barely squeaking by.

Lack of a list

Equally as heartbreaking are those who apologize for their lack of a stocked list.

It usually begins by “I know I don’t attend church as often as I should” or “I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of.” Hidden within their confessions is a plea to recognize that they are still worthwhile people.

Worthwhile people

I know they are worthwhile people. Jesus knows they are worthwhile people. I suppose the danger sneaks in when those same worthwhile people estimate that their value stems from the list.

In reality, the list just keeps getting in the way. Jesus came to die for weak people who recognize they are weak. Their worth comes from being made in the image of God.

It can be both terrifying and liberating to learn that absolutely nothing an individual brings to the table (or tracks on a list) merits him or her in the sight of God (Check out Isaiah 64:6; Luke 17:10).

It is terrifying because nothing is scarier than relying on someone else’s gift for good standing. It is liberating because no sane Christian is ecstatic about relying on his or her list. One always wonders if it is long enough.

Oddly enough, the most content Christians I encounter are most confident of one thing: their weakness. They have been pummeled by trying harder, working longer and being better. They have come to the realization that if anything good is to come from them, then Christ in them will have to do it (Jeremiah 17:9). They join a host of weak people resigned to abandon the list and rely on Christ alone.

Brad Eades, chaplain at Hospice of the Valley, is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for The Daily. For more information, call Melanie Smith at 340-2468.

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