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Do people really want to know how you are when they ask How you doing?


Pastoral Pondering

“How are you?” someone asks.

“Fine, thank you,” you respond.

How many times a day does that exchange take place? Often the greeting and response are given and received with little thought.

I once had a friend whose standard response was, “I’m here.” He was too honest to respond with “fine” when he was not, and correctly judged that most people did not want the latest medical report.

Recently, I have taken to using a response I’ve heard others use, “Far better than I deserve, thank you.” Many seem to pause briefly and think when they hear that. “That’s a good response,” one person said. A young lady gasped, “Oh, don’t say that!”

Although it wasn’t the time and place to pursue a conversation, I suspect that, since she knows I am a pastor, she thought that I merited what I receive. My friend Dale reminded me that as an appropriate rejoinder I might have said, “You don’t know me and my sin, and you don’t know the holiness of God.”

There is something in each of us that wants to take credit ourselves, at least a little bit of credit, for our standing before God. But we are incapable of the perfection God requires. We need to acknowledge our own inability. That is why I like to respond with “far better than I deserve.” It reflects the emphasis of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:4-7: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

As you look at the verses that come before, Paul expands on the deadness of our natural situation. We were once walking dead in our sins and rebellion against God. But now, God has made us alive, raising us up together with Christ as we trust him. That displays the rich mercy of God. It means that in Christ we are far better than we deserve.

But don’t think that emphasizing the mercy and undeserved favor of God undermines the importance of living obediently to the glory of God. In what follows, Paul reminds you that God’s purpose in creating you in Christ Jesus is: “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

How are you ... really? Better than you deserve?

John W. Mahaffy, is the pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church