Ministry Tip of the Week
Been a while? I thought so.
When, however, was the last time you longed for meaning, or conviction, direction, comfort, peace, freedom, or rest? I'm not sure those desires ever leave.
So when we share our faith, what's our message?
Does sin keep people from experiencing Jesus' love? Absolutely. Repentance, however, is a tough sell to someone who isn't particularly offended by the sin in their life; and, unfortunately, we don't always know we want Jesus' love. Sin is real, but only the converted heart can truly understand it. Once you've tasted the banquet (and encountered the love of Christ personally), the stench of the dumpster is fully revealed.
But only then.
Chastity, for example, isn't a "no" to premarital sex and lustful desires. Well, it is, but it's not a condemnation of licentiousness and fornication. Chastity is a "yes" to something much bigger, and far more enticing. It's a "yes" to authentic love, to making a complete gift of self, to seeing people through God's eyes, to purity of heart, and to a sense of freedom, fulfillment, and strength in sexual matters. Affirmative orthodoxy focuses on the positive fruit that freedom from sin brings us, not condemnation, fear, restriction, or guilt.
Another example is Reconciliation. This Sacrament (of Healing) is imperative for a living faith, and yet people hide from it like it's the plague. Here we must continue to scream affirmative orthodoxy from the rooftops. Confession isn't to be understood as a place to hang your head in shame. It's a "yes" to the endless mercy of God and the healing power of his loving embrace. It's an experience of a loving Father, a taste of God's abundant goodness, and it's our access to true spiritual freedom. To approach Confession as anything else would be a lesser understanding (imperfect contrition at best), so focus on how amazing a gift it is.
"Well, what's the punishment then?" our Western minds are quick to ask. "How could there be no punishment and then expect people to follow the obligatory rule?!"
There is a punishment. You missed mass. This is affirmative orthodoxy at it's best, if you ask me. The focus is on how good and life-giving Holy Mass is, not the threat of negative consequences if you purposely miss.
Focus on the fruit. Exalt the power of grace. Rejoice in the goodness of God and the merciful heart of Christ. The truth is, we'd be crazy not to want what a life of faith offers. The goal is to help people understand this. In a sense, this is similar to a marketing strategy I talked about months ago: The WIIFM Principle. Sell the benefits (with sincerity and enthusiasm) and sin is far less desirable. Let's make it as clear as possible. We don't just need Jesus, we actually want him.