Faith & Insight: Addition is subtraction

Fred Kingman

Fred Kingman

Everyone eventually sells out. Every band we love, celebrity we follow and friend we care about will eventually choose happiness over truth, money over authenticity. And they sell out not because it’s a good trade but because they’re waiting for something better. They’re tired and think change is the answer.
And to be clear it might be. If you’ve lived with dependency on substances or shopping or fast food, change might be great. But if you’re actually living in truth in a committed relationship or good career or solid church, selling out becomes less about finding joy and more about sabotaging it.
What are you waiting for? If you happen to call Jesus king, there’s a constant pull to say he isn’t enough, that we have to spice up life with God through adding things. Jesus not enough? Go to this retreat. Jesus isn’t enough? Take up this political cause. Jesus not enough? Make room for new (or old) theology you didn’t know before.
The Apostle Paul, a church leader who used to exemplify what is it was to be a Jew and follow the Torah, was converted to Christianity through meeting the resurrected Jesus in the hills outside Damascus. And he followed him because he knew the futility of trying to earn eternal life when the risen Jesus offers it freely.
After some time, Paul plants churches in Asia Minor and specifically in Galatia. But he begins to hear they weren't content with Jesus but were adding to him, specifically the requirement for Christians become Jews. So he writes them in Galatians 1:6-7 to ask why they’ve sold out:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
They weren’t changing their life for the better, getting rid of the bad to add the better. They were trying to perfect perfection, like me trying to add to the Mona Lisa. The truth is if we add to Jesus we lose Jesus, if we change him we betray him.
Paul says even if he teaches a message contrary to the Gospel (the good news), let him be accursed (condemned, judged, in hell).
Why? Why is hell appropriate for those who add to Jesus? Because to add our own ideas or effort to forgiveness means it’s not forgiveness. To add to grace means it’s not grace! And grace is the only way to God, atonement the only way to have at-one-ment.
Think about it this way. If you mess with the only way to have eternal life, reroute the only road back to God you have no way to get to him. In an age where we determine our identity and how people address us, God also has that right. We don’t tell him what he’s like and how he should accept us; he’s shown us what he’s like and how he does accept us in his son.
The Gospel is a story about Jesus, beginning with a pregnant teenage mom and culminating in a man’s ascension into heaven. And in between is a cross, where God put our sin on his son and killed him for it. God killed Jesus to save sellouts who constantly trade truth for momentary happiness. God gave up what he loved most to make a way for us to know him.
When you mess with that message out of boredom you don’t actually know it. Adding to Jesus means you lose him because he is a gift. And if you feel nothing for him or don’t buy into Christianity, know that there is a God who is bought into you through the death of His Son. You can’t change it, you can only accept it and in it find the life and change you genuinely long for.


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