Sunday November 30, 2003 | Greg Boyd
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Recently Greg has been speaking about the Joy of the Lord and how we are intended to participate in that joy. This week’s sermon addressed two common ways that joy can be “corked” and restricted in our lives. The first is the “Savior Complex” and the second is the “Payback Complex.” Both complexes rob us of the joy that God intends for us.
Recently Greg has been speaking about the Joy of the Lord and how we are intended to participate in that joy. This week’s sermon addresses two common ways that joy can be “corked” (or restricted) in our lives. The first is the “Savior Complex” and the second is the “Payback Complex”. Both of these complexes bring with them a false sense of guilt and responsibility that robs us of the joy of the Lord.
Greg started describing this by asking a question: how can we have joy when we live in such a pain-filled screwed up world? Isn’t it denying reality to feel joyful under these conditions? Just think of all those who suffer while we have plenty! Where is the joy in that? One approach is to close your eyes to the evil and suffering in the world and pretend things are fine. Of course, self-deceit is not the answer, so how then can we have joy? As much as it is true that there is suffering in the world, it is also true that God has done everything necessary for the salvation of the world! We ARE to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:14-19), but we are also to have the joy of God as the foundation from which we do this. We, as individuals, need to recognize that we cannot save a single person. That is God’s job. When we begin to feel the burden of the world as though it were ours personally, we are taking up God’s responsibilities. But of course, our shoulders are not strong enough to bear such a load. When we take this up, we tend to resent others who “don’t seem to care” about the same things that occupy us so profoundly. Our resentment can then turn to cynicism about people and the church in general. Fundamentally, we need to remember that God is God and we are not. God may allow us to participate in the redemptive work God is doing in the world, but we are not God. God is the savior, we are the ones needing salvation. If we feel disproportionately guilty or responsible for the suffering in the world, we may be suffering from a “Savior Complex”!
We all have some experience receiving offers or proposals that claim to be “gifts” or “free” and, as it turns out, there is a catch. There is some sort of “string” attached that requires something of us. This just shows that the “gift” was not really “free” in the true sense of the word. Some examples Greg used were related to Christmas. Sometimes you receive a gift from someone and you KNOW that the expectation is there that you will either wear the gift sometime in the future when the “giver” will be present (a sweater, perhaps…), or the gift will have to sit in a visible place in your home when the giver comes over (a lamp or knick knack of some sort) or perhaps the giver will expect access to the gift itself! Like a husband who buys his wife a new car that he knows HE will especially enjoy driving! These gifts are not really free, they come with expectations attached to them. The main point in this part of the sermon is that God’s gift of salvation is NOT like this. God’s gift is truly and absolutely free according to Romans 6:23 and many other biblical references. There is nothing you can do to earn it and there is no way to undo it. The fact is, in Christ, the world has been reconciled to God (Romans 5; 2 Cor. 2, etc.) and all you can do about it is accept it or resist it. It is truly a gift. We do not serve God because we are trying to “pay God back” for our salvation, we serve and love God because it is who we are, it is what were created to do. It is a part of being true to yourself and your purpose in life. God’s grace does not depend on us or we would never have been saved and never would be. THIS is a cause for Joy! If you struggle with thoughts about earning your salvation or find yourself giving or worshipping out of a sense of obligation rather than joy, you may be struggling with what Greg described as the “Payback Complex.”