Practicing the Better: Deliverance

Nothing could be worse than to have the desire to please God, but be unable to do so.  So, just as the creation gave us the capacity to serve God (via the imago dei), so also the Covenant gives us the capacity through the motif of deliverance.  Both forms of capacity are because of grace.

We must not miss the fact that God made the Covenant with Israel after their deliverance from Egypt. Their capacity for obedience came because they were free.  Paul later wrote of this in relation to Christ, “Christ has set us free for freedom” (Galatians 5:1).  In the same way, the liturgy reminds us that we are freed “for joyful obedience.”

It is deliverance which further confirms that our love of God and others is not a “pay back.”  We do not practice the better to insure our account with God is “paid in full.” We live by the motive of delight, not the mandate of obligation. Gratitude is an outflow of grace, not a prerequisite for it.

Deliverance from bondage does not get us all the way to the practice of the better, but there can be no achievement of the better until we are free to love out of faith, not fear.  To be set free means that our choices to practice the better arise from compassion, not coercion.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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