What sort of incentive systems are you used to? You expect to be punished or deprived for doing the wrong things and rewarded or commended for doing the right things. Systems in which you are rewarded for doing the wrong thing are called perverse incentives. How do you see me? I am regarded as an extreme version of a conventional reward system by believer and unbeliever alike. Yet my word says it is my goodness that leads you to repentance. Paul reminds you that you are not to sin that grace may abound, but I am prepared to lavish blessings upon you until you return to me.
Do you understand that you should not judge people for things over which they have no control? You can’t blame people for their race, gender, age, or nation of origin. In many countries these are among categories legally protected against prejudice. Presumably then you can legally discriminate against people for things in their life they have control over, but should you? Do you have perfect control over the circumstances in your own life? Can you completely describe a person by the sum of their choices? The Biblical standard is higher than the legal standard. Don’t judge at all.
What is the worst possible state of humanity? Alienation and isolation would have to be at the top of the list, and loneliness is fatal. Even in prison the worst punishment is solitary confinement. Long ago I said that it is not good for man to be alone, and this is still true, in so many ways. Some live in a world of alienation and isolation by their own making, but you don’t have to contribute to this or be indifferent to it. There are sins of omission as well as commission and you are your brother’s keeper. I was a stranger and you took me in.
Do you see Christianity as a slacker faith? You emphasize (correctly) that grace is a free, unearned gift. Does that imply that Christians are casually and marginally attached to their faith? How do you make the leap of logic to total commitment and involvement? In every other area of life you see people at the top of any field putting in effort for the results they get. Yet you see the same trait in those who are most successful in the practice of their faith.
Do you treat all your children equally? This is a modern ideal. In times past favoritism was expected and practiced openly. Consider the example of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Yet even parents who strive for equal treatment find it hard to implement in practice. Each child is different, and parents bring their own uniqueness to the situation, and there are random events in life. Can you extend this concept to your Father in heaven and the way he treats his children? You know that he is not a respecter of persons. Does it appear that he treats them all equally?
Do you worry about logistics? Soldiers worry about tactics and courage, but generals and field commanders worry about logistics. Management of resources and getting the right people in the right place at the right time and providing them with what they need to do their assignments is a huge task, and doing it well is a large part of victory. How good are you at this? Have you ever been aware that the events affecting your life were being coordinated by someone and it wasn’t you? Blessed are those who realize that I am at work on their behalf. Let me handle your logistical needs.
Do you see your body as a temple? Do you see this as a burden? If you are bought with a price and you are not your own then it is appropriate for you to honor me in your body. But before you regard this as a burden, can you stand in awe of the magnitude of the concept? For this is an affirmation that I dwell within you. The essence of my being is present in you. Though I inhabit all time, space, and eternity I also abide in you. You don’t contain me, but you don’t have to go looking for me either, for as I promised, the Kingdom of God is within you.
Do you like to play games? They provide a greater level of involvement and engagement than you get from entertainment or just being a spectator watching someone else play a game. They provide an opportunity for contact and involvement with other people, and competition sharpens your focus and brings forth your best performance. Yet they are still contrived contests, creating winners and losers without making a lasting improvement. Will your soul be satisfied with this? It is not wrong to play games, and they bring enjoyment, but don’t you have a hunger to make a difference in the world?
Do you understand the value of humility? Will you do anything to avoid humiliation? Do you see how these terms are related? The concepts are too. But if you see humiliation only in terms of shame and embarrassment you will do whatever it takes to avoid it. Yet is this the process by which you obtain humility? You can distinguish between that which you seek and that which is imposed on you. And so my word tells you to humble yourself that you may be exalted in due time, and to judge yourself that you would not be judged.
My word speaks of transformation as a desirable process. You understand that this is more than a superficial change in appearance. It involves a whole new way of being, and if you have experienced this you know that it is not quick or easy, but it is the best thing you can experience. Do you think of transformation only on an individual basis? What about organizations? In particular, what about churches? For a group has an identity that can grow even as an individual does. What do you think I meant when I said that new wine would require new wineskins?