I am still working through this one. Would appreciate any discussion on it.
My parents recently spent a week in Toronto. As is the case when parents spend time away they brought back some gifts for the children. Even though I am in my mid 30s I still find this exciting. This time they brought back a t-shirt with the slogan, ‘Jesus loves you but I am his favourite.’ Funny. I was sure He had better taste than that.
Of course the t-shirt is a joke but over the past number of years the word favour has become more and more commonplace within the Christian jargon. Here are few examples, ‘God will/won’t pour His favour out upon you if …” “You can unlock God’s favour in this area if you.” “There is special favour reserved for those who.” God’s favour is to be sought and we are even beginning to see the embryonic stages of systems by which we can unlock or gain this favour.
The overwhelming majority of times that I have heard this kind of teaching it has been taught over the backdrop of ‘anti-religion’ Christianity. This is the Christianity I live in and hold to; faith in Jesus as opposed to rules and regulations. This is to be celebrated. However, it is out of that sub-culture that we are hearing the most teaching on how to gain God’s favour. The issue with this is that favour teaching is at risk of becoming a repackaging of the religion.
We, in our anti-religion Christianity define religion as being any attempt to gain God’s love and blessing through our own behaviour. We instead speak of grace, the undeserved love and blessing of God that we cannot earn. Yet here we are espousing the very opposite in these teachings. That if we do this or that then we receive favour. What this is in fact leading to is a hierarchy of behaviours that the one teaching has decided will release or cut off the favour of God. We say things like, ‘God will never pour his favour out upon a person who (insert sin of choice)” Often if you know the one teaching well you can see clearly a link between their hobby horse and how to cut off God’s favour. Well any understanding of the most basic concept of grace, would show that these two cannot comfortably coexist. If it was our human sin that controlled His blessing and love then we would never receive a thing from Him. We are all pretty good at getting it wrong.
There are of course a few favoured people in Scripture. Here are a few, Abel, Noah, Samuel, David, Mary and Jesus. These are where people will go to show that in fact God does pour favour on people at certain times. However, the same people will also tell you that in Jesus we receive EVERY blessing under heaven, that God sends sun and rain on the godly and the ungodly and most of all, that all of this is undeserved. In Jesus we see the one who is perfectly favoured and through Him we receive all that there is available to us. We cannot not muster up the blessing of Heaven, we just have to live in it. Core to Christianity is the belief that through Jesus we are free from any need to earn God’s favour and grace.
Why does this matter? Well, I have encountered people who are constantly pursuing His favour. They read books and go to conferences seeking some new key to release the flood of blessing that is being held back. They pray for God’s favour and beg Him for it. They wait and wait and then when the indefinable and indescribable ‘favour’ which they have been seeking doesn’t happen they turn on themselves. They say, ‘Well it must be because I am too (insert sin of choice).’ All we are doing with this sort of teaching is creating another religion that will disappoint people. This sort of teaching runs a high risk of drawing people into despair and disillusionment or arrogance and disillusionment. I rarely see it go any other way.
Yet, the whole time we are creating this new religion God is still pouring His blessings upon us. The whole time we are ‘unlocking His special favour’ He has already given us every spiritual blessing in Heaven. We fight tooth and nail to control our behaviours to hopefully gain the notice of a God who already counts the hairs on our heads and knows our every thought. We are jumping through hoops to receive what we already have in abundance.
So next time you hear this line in church or at a conference think a little about the language; God will pour favour out upon you if … Would you be comfortable with the phrase, ‘God shows favouritism to those who … ?’ I imagine most Christians baulk at the idea of a God who shows favouritism yet these are exactly the same thing. Paul is pretty direct in telling us that God does not show favouritism so why are we trying so hard to convince Him to do so?