As a family, the most popular board game we play is “Monopoly”. Except, it’s less of a game in our house and more like open warfare. Reputations are lost and won, bragging rights are established until the next game. Everyone has their strategy of how to win and I reckon I could write a PhD thesis on the various tactics used, statistical analyses carried out on frequency of landing on properties and return on investment for having all four stations. But there’s one aspect of Monopoly I want to refer to today, the “Get out of Jail free” card. It’s an interesting idea, immunity from being sent to prison; being able to play the game with the consequences of landing on “Go to jail” removed.
In our second reading today, Paul is concerned regarding the behaviour of the Corinthians who claim to be Christians. It appears that they think being baptised, going to church and taking communion together is a guarantee of their salvation and they can do what they like the rest of the time. They are using the sacraments as their “Get out of jail free” card. Paul highlights the experience of Israel in the wilderness as an example for them to be wary of. Israel had been “baptised” through the waters as they left Egypt, had God’s presence with them and ate spiritual food and drank spiritual water in the wilderness. Yet God was not pleased with them as they engaged in idolatry, immoral behaviour and kept blaming God for their ills. Paul pointed out the Corinthians were doing exactly the same.
It’s a problem we have to face too. There are some who take the doctrine of personal salvation to heart and nothing else. They see the fact they are baptised, have the Spirit gifted to them and that they come to church and take communion as all they ever need to do. Their lives never change as a result and they continue to live for themselves thinking they also have a “get out of jail free” card when it comes to God. It’s what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”. It’s not about being saved by works, we are truly saved by faith. But as Karl Barth said, if our faith is genuine, it will impact on how we live. We cannot do whatever we want and point to the sacraments and think God will be pleased with us. We need to take our faith seriously and let it inform our living. Baptism and communion are steps along the road of discipleship, not the destination in themselves.
(Image of “get out of jail card” from Hasbro)