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Early-stage morality seems to be determined by what some call the world of karma or some kind of equalization between debt and punishment, merit and reward. It seeks to create some “justice” between output and input, so the world can make sense to our small self. The Loyal Soldier voices that developed in our early childhood said, “You get what you deserve. You don’t deserve anything more than what you’ve earned and are therefore worthy of receiving.” This simple worldview likes “bad” people to be punished and “good” people to be rewarded. Just talk to any ten-year-old child. But because most people do not grow up spiritually, things like capital punishment, oppressive penal codes, and war continue unabated, even in people who think they have experienced the transformation of the Gospel.
For most of us, the world of reward and punishment, law and obedience, is the frame that we began with as children. If I had three screaming kids, I suppose I would be into reward and punishment, too! “You only get the lollipop when you’re a good girl,” or “mommy punishes me when I’m a bad boy, so that must be the way God is, too.” Right? No, that is the very program that God has to change by inserting some new and wonderful software. Remember: true Christianity is a mystical matter, not a moral matter. In fact, our early moral “explanations” normally have to fall apart to proceed on the mystical path.
Through prayer, suffering, and/or great love, we eventually encounter the real God. It is always an experience of mercy and forgiveness, a personal warming of the heart, as John Wesley (1703-1791) put it. Finally, we start to grow up and move beyond the world of karmic debt—where everybody actually loses—to the world of grace—where everybody always wins. If the Loyal Soldier is the protector of the first half of life, Jesus is the protector of the world of grace and freedom.
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