I am beginning to feel more and more strongly that the sheer graciousness of the Gospel, the freedom from compulsion and control that is ours in Jesus, is what people hunger for so much as they labor under the burdens of this life. Jesus told the religious leaders of his day that they loaded burdens on the backs of men and women that they (the leaders) couldn't bear. And, Jesus contrasted his way of dealing with people by saying: "Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Religion has always been dominated by a compulsive spirit, a controlling spirit by means of guilt. Jesus' way is the opposite. I want nothing to do with force, judgement, compulsion. We could really learn something from the traditional Quaker way. I don't know if they live by it anymore. But, there is an insight and an experience in the old Quakers and the Quakers like Rufus Jones and Thomas Kelly of the 20th century. This insight has something to do with the fact that God is not a God of force and compulsion, and we human beings find it unimaginable that the greatest authority in all the world acts the opposite of how we envision authority and the opposite of how we tend to exercise it.
We really seem to miss the point of the cross. The conservative Protestant doctrine of strict substitutionary atonement which still dominates Protestant theology in this country, portrays God as your basic King who has to have satisfaction to appease his indignation at imperfection and sin in his subjects. Jesus and Paul portray God as the Father of the prodigal son, who is motivated by one overriding affection: love and the desire to heal and reconcile and reunite. The One who demands no satisfaction from his subjects, but only asks that his subjects stop and receive his loving embrace. And, this One will not drag us kicking and screaming into his kingdom. God is not a God of force. He continues to come to us, speak to us, but in the end, he will not force us to do anything. The law of the universe made by our gracious God is that you really can't force anyone to do anything in the end. God put within his creatures an image that cannot be violated. He will not violate that image by compelling anyone to do anything.
Parents who come to have genuine relationships with their children learn this over time. The only real authority you have in your children's lives is an authority that arises from the deepest trust and love between you and your child. Real authority is not based on fear or force or guilt or anything compulsive or controlling. It is like that because that is the way God has graciously and wisely structured his creation.
Some thoughts I am having as I think about what it would be like for a church to be a fellowship of true grace, where burdens are lightened and almost never increased.