Thursday, April 27, 2006

draft number 127

Grace has been on my mind a lot this year. I’ve been asked to write on it, speak on it, and think on it. So I have. All three. Sometimes with surprising results.

You would think that grace would be easy to discuss. It’s what we, as Christians, have based our entire faith on. You’d think we would know quite a bit about it. But I find that my own understanding of grace, especially God’s grace, is quite limited.

Like anything about God’s character, I immediately base my understanding of it by what I see in my own life or in the lives around me. And, sadly, the grace that I offer is extremely limited. So, while I understand that God’s grace is bigger than mine, it’s hard to fathom it. I mean, just how much bigger is God’s grace? Ten times bigger? A hundred? A thousand? A million? And, even if I were to answer that question, what would it even mean to give a million times more grace than I give? What does that even look like?

I was actually asked to speak on grace at an engagement this past Monday night. As I was preparing for it over the weekend, I asked Jamie if there were any good Biblical stories of grace that I was leaving out. She mentioned David. And my immediate reaction was, no, I don’t want to talk about David because his great sin was adultery and I don’t want to give people a license to commit adultery. And, just as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I realized that I was not truly prepared to speak about the full measure of God’s grace.

The grace that God offers appears to me to be rather reckless. In fact, it seems quite irresponsible. If you were to offer me that same kind of grace, one of your friends would eventually pull you aside and warn you that you were being taken advantage of. That you were being walked on.

I was asked to write about grace, this past year, for what we’ll call an unnamed publication. I thought and thought about what to write about. In fact, I wrote several different drafts on several different topics. But one day I sat down and simply wrote about my own struggles. Specifically, my struggle with a certain position that the church takes on a particular topic. I was in no way saying that the church was wrong in their stance. Only that my heart struggled and grieved over it. In the end I finished up by asking the readers if they were prepared to extend to me the kind of grace I would need to wade through the topic and, hopefully, come out with a firm foundation on the other side. I’m guessing that the answer was no. Not only did the publication decide not to publish my article, but the person who asked me to write it was reprimanded by the editor for even submitting it for publication.

I grew up in a church that believed you could not lose your salvation, yet a Christian school that believed you could. I spent years trying to figure out which side was right. Along the way I came to realize that, even in the case of my church, the grace we were prepared to extend only went so far. For instance, if somebody claimed to be a believer, but then committed a sin that we deemed too big, we would simply explain it away by suggesting that the person had never truly been a Christian to begin with. Grace limited.

We are uncomfortable with grace. On one hand, we’re glad it exists because it’s what gives us a chance. On the other hand, we see it only extending as far as allowing us an initial forgiveness of sins but then forgiveness, from that point on, only as long as we’re prepared to be committed to a very specific lifestyle. You’re uncomfortable reading that and, believe me, I’m uncomfortable typing it because in the end, that’s what I believe too.

After twenty years of study on the topic of salvation and one’s ability to lose it, I’ve only come to a few decisions; One, I don’t know. I have no idea. I can argue both sides strongly and back up both sides with scripture. Paul, Peter, and James all seem to come at it from different angles and, possibly, with different opinions. So I don’t know. Two, I have a feeling that even those among us who offer the most grace will be surprised to see who God lets into heaven. In fact, it’s a good thing that we won’t know until we get to heaven because I could see it being quite scandalous if we knew about it on earth. I could see it being quite divisive. Kind of like the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).

I don’t know quite where I’m going with this. I think that it might be an ongoing conversation. One thing’s for sure, if my faith isn’t even the size of a mustard seed compared to God’s, than the rest of my character probably isn’t either. What does that say about God’s grace? Just how reckless and irresponsible is it???

In reading over this, I think I need to try again.

Comments on "draft number 127"

 

Blogger Bill said ... (1:45 AM) : 

irresponsable grace.

Sounds like a title. Anyway, I agree we don't understand God's grace. But we understand less about God's mercy. I wonder what the difference is between the two.

I we are called to live and demonstrate God's grace then what does that mean? Its scary to love people inspite of thier issues.

 

Blogger peter said ... (4:21 AM) : 

"Kind of like the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)."

-So true

Part of it, I think, is our pride as Christians. When at the end of the day we realize that after all our 'hard work' we are going to a heaven filled with criminals, addicts, homosexuals... our gut reaction might be "but I deserve better than that", "I did this, I did that..."

We overlook the big newsflash in the Bible that says we have all sinned (yes, lying, gossiping, cheating...included)and are not worthy of heaven (Romans 3:23)

It is not our greatness but God's mercy that is our ticket in.

That's a very humbling thing for many.

Thanks for the post. Everyone of us needs to be reminded once and awhile. Good luck with your final draft.

Peter Lublink
www.lublink.ca

 

Blogger shaun said ... (4:27 PM) : 

It seems to me that part of the problem we have with grace is that it undermines our attempt to be autonomous. Grace forces us to admit that our only hope of salvation is based on something someone else has done. Admitting that it is all of Jesus' work and none of mine is tough to swallow for a people who want to believe we can save ourselves by our misidentified thoughts of "goodness". For the record, I don't think that we have to shy away from thinking that the work of Jesus in someone's life ought to bear fruit, it certainly will. But, we should be really careful that we anticipate the same fruit the scriptures anticipate and not an artificially trumped up view of morality based on what we think represents a nice and tidy life.

 

Blogger Larry said ... (5:27 PM) : 

Tim,

Thanks for your post. I have been dealing with this subject for a while. I read the comments and think that many other people are thinking about it as well.

I like Shaun think often we mix up morality and grace. I also think I see our struggle for us to be right instead of graceful as our main sticking point.

I wish I was more graceful. I am sure there would be a few less scars on people if I were.

 

Blogger Sean said ... (11:13 PM) : 

yeah the boss...

Most of my more Calvanist friends tell me I am cop out for landing in the middle of the eternal security bit.

And to Bill, of course grace is when we get we what we don;t deserve and don't get what we do.


Now that that is clear. God's grace is in fact reckless. I agree we can't yet fathom the depths of Grace and may never as He is God and we can't be. I feel like knowing that it is there is hugely important to us as Christians. To see its effect on us, through us and around us is awesome. We too often get in its way. I feel like as a person there is always a struggle between grace and effecting a change.

If someone accidentally slaps me once. Grace...I smile. Twice...I sigh THrice perhaps my allowing the slapping has not effectively changed the slapper to a non-slapper. Do I continue the slapping or confront him with witnesses and kick him to the curb.

I feel like God's grace doesn't always smile, but rather effects a change in people as they come to know it more. When I read the story of David and the grace shown him and the emotion He penned in the Psalms, I realize how God used him, but also very clearly showed him Justice. Is that part of the Grace?

Now that I have begun to respond, I see how you could think about this for a long time, so I'll stop there. I think Philip Yancey has a book called Amazing Grace or something that gets into the life change true grace affords.

 

Blogger BrownEyedGirl said ... (5:06 AM) : 

great post! I added a link from my site....hope you don't mind.

 

Blogger Sean said ... (3:26 PM) : 

correction....."what is so amazing about grace?" is the title of Yancey's book.

 

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