Almighty and merciful God: …Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord….
This is a line from one of the Sunday prayers in our Anglican prayer book. The notion of running to obtain God’s promises reminds me of some shopping dynamics. (Shopping? Yeah, I know, but the brain is weird sometimes.)
Think of some of those doorbuster sales at Christmas. Or, maybe what grocery stores sometimes call ‘loss leaders.’ We’ll ignore some of the gimmicky sales tricks buried in such marketing techniques for the moment. So imagine your local grocery store advertising New York Strip Steak for $0.49 per pound. How will you respond to what practically amounts to a giveaway?
Well – it depends, doesn’t it.
If the ad appeared this week, given the prices of beef everywhere else, you might be skeptical. Hmmm…. “Is that a typo,” you might wonder. "Is it a scam? Are they pawning off horse meat under the label of Angus?" You might decide that it isn’t a legitimate offer. There is no guarantee of getting what is supposedly being advertised. If this is how you engage the offer, you likely do absolutely nothing.
But it’d be a shame to miss out if it was legit….
Then there's the possibility that the offer doesn’t suit your tastes. You believe the advertisement to be a legitimate promotion that will actually deliver the goods for the price, but you hate steak. Cow meat makes you gag. You don’t want to be a part of supporting slaughterhouses. Or maybe you are a vegetarian for health reasons. Etc, etc. If this is where you are when it comes to what is being sold at such a ridiculous price, you probably again do…nothing.
It seems to me that this is analogous to how we respond to God’s promises. We hear them and think, “Nah. Too good to be true.” Or, “Maybe somewhere or someone else, but I would never be able to get in on that.” In other words, we don’t believe the promises. Or maybe we don’t believe there is a Promiser. Maybe we don’t believe there is a God.
Then there is the darker possibility that we don’t actually want what is promised. We don’t want forgiveness (Why, what have I done that would need forgiving?). We don’t want eternal life with God (Boring! Floating on clouds with harps and all that. One long church service. Who wants that!). We aren’t interested in being in a place where they let in ex-murderers, rapists, thieves, and other unsuitable riff-raff (Not the company I would ever choose to spend endless ages with…). Whatever, but we ain’t buying it.
There you have it – two plausible reasons why people don’t run to obtain God’s promises.
But if you are running to obtain them (because you believe the promises and you desperately want in on them), there is the part in the prayer about not stumbling. We should probably pray that more often. I trip myself up all the time….