Spiritual Entitlement

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There have been moments (when my children were younger and complaining about things), that I would reference the hardships of my childhood, with a view to engendering a sense of gratitude for the many blessings they enjoyed. The inconvenience of getting up to get a ride to school surely paled in comparison to having to walk to school nine miles and uphill in both directions, in a blizzard. (Embellished yes, but I feared a generation of ungrateful children.) I suspect that all parents with children who are coming of age, have heard the conversation, and have perhaps even heard that today’s youth are an “entitled” generation. This has come to mean for many, that our youth assume they “deserve” or are inherently entitled to: an education, a job, a successful relationship, a plentiful savings account, and generally speaking, a good life. I am not at all sure that such a description is accurate, but what I do believe to be true is that many parents have done their best to minimize, if not eliminate, hardship for their children. In effect, giving birth to the very sense of entitlement of which they’ve been harshly critical. They hearken back to hard work and long suffering as elements of the way in which to best teach good character, and lament the absence of these things, while ironically having done their level best to ease effort and minimize suffering. This sort of conundrum is the constant companion of the Lutheran church in particular. Luther re-discovered Paul’s theology of salvation by grace through faith, in a church that was marked by a profoundly corrupted version of works righteousness. Sola gratia has been the hallmark of Lutheran teaching, but our insistence on the sufficiency of Christ’s work for our salvation, has led to a kind of lethargy best described as a sense of spiritual entitlement. Rather than sharing and doing and proclaiming in gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ, so many Lutherans do nothing. This weekend was our Mission Festival service where we were updated on all the wonderful mission activities in which our congregation engages, and where we most certainly emphasize that God’s gift of salvation by grace alone is best expressed to the world in our service to God and God’s children. We are indeed saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and that empowers and emboldens us to serve! Only by grace are we saved! Only by grace can we serve!