Sunday, November 19, 2006

New Covenant Boasting

The very idea of "boasting" would appear utterly inconsistent with the Pauline doctrines of grace were it not for the fact that Paul himself did it all the time. But in order for boasting to be legitimate, some qualifications are in order. As Walter Sobchak has reminded us, "This is not 'Nam, there are rules...."

First, it is not permissible to boast in the fact that we have done what we were told. Paul says in I Corinthians 9:16 that he cannot boast in preaching the gospel since he has been commanded by Jesus to do so.

Secondly, though, it appears that boasting is an option if we are going above and beyond the call of duty. Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not advocating the Pharisaical practice of inventing laws, fulfilling them, and then bragging about it ("I fast twice a week"). By going "above and beyond the call of duty" I'm referring to what Paul did, namely, denying ourselves the enjoyment of things that are perfectly permissible and voluntarily limiting our rights to benefits to which we are actually entitled (specifically for Paul these benefits included meat, marriage, and money, I Cor. 9:4-6).

This notion could have drastic consequences for American Christians, not the least of which is the distinct possibility that all those passages about suffering may actually apply to us (who says we Reformed ministers never give application?).

In the minds of many believers today, until the antichrist implants microchips into our foreheads and forces us to worship a statue or have our heads chopped off, "suffering" is nothing more than a noble theory that people in heathen lands have to deal with (plus, we'll all be raptured before any of that bad stuff happens anyway).

But could it be that carrying our crosses in more civilized lands like ours may mean that we cease to think in terms of our "rights" and what we're entitled to? It seems to me that the One who told us to carry our crosses had an inalienable right not to be nailed to one.