Let’s be honest with one another. Do we really understand grace?
The trend, it seems to me, is that we are saved by grace and then it’s all up to us. That is, God does the initial work of ‘saving’ us and then we do the maintenance on our own. I suppose we might pay lip service every now and again to the work of the Spirit. I’m not persuaded that I am any closer to the truth of grace. I still try too hard to be holy not because I love God but because I really want to impress God. Really. Don’t we all want to hear God say, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s joy today”? Grace is someone else’s reconstruction project and not my maintenance project.
Maybe I want to hear that because I want God to be impressed at how in control I am of my situation. I’m not too particularly concerned to be dependent. I like control and being in charge. I certainly do not want to cede control to anyone. Lately I have found myself in a place where I have no control. I’m about one meal away from having to go to the local food pantry and beg. I’m about one drink away from falling off the wagon I have been on since 1991. I’m about one missed day of work away from not making the mortgage. Grace is someone else in control besides me.
I want to be close to God and yet right now I am about as far away from him as a human on earth can be from one who came near. On the other hand, I am closer to him than I have ever been. It’s oxymoronic, but true and it has nothing to do with me. I’m not so good at hiding, and God is so very good at finding. Grace is someone else finding me and not me making myself known.
I don’t understand grace. Maybe I should quit trying and just enjoy it. Or Swim in it. Or blame it. Run to it. Run from it. Eat it. Drink it. Put it in my pocket. Fly it like a kite. Grace is someone else’s idea of sustenance not mine.
I read this short essay tonight. Well, it’s not really an essay. It’s more like a blog post—a good one: short, sweet, and memorable. It’s called Refrigerator People and the Unfair Grace of God. Here’s a clip:
The One I serve is the Author of wildly beautiful, unfair grace. He permits me to pray for people the world dismisses with a few well-placed words. Dirtbags. Scum of the earth. Criminals. Crazy people. You know, the ones who “deserve it” when the going gets rough. He invites me to dare to believe He’s big enough to redeem even these…and that He longs to do exactly that. As I join Him in the conversation about them, He shows me much about their brokenness and their beauty…and much about mine as well.
The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair. My prayer today is that every person on my fridge and on my heart will accept the unfair grace of God, and know freedom in this life. I long to meet them on the other side, and celebrate with them the magnitude of that grace.
Grace will always be unfair. I’m undone. We are all undone by the God of grace because none of us can stand before him, read off our list of credentials, and hope to get in with a pat on the back and a smile. But we can expect to ‘get in’ when we are nothing more before God than who we are because of God. That is, when we make no effort whatsoever to impress him aside from just accepting what he offers in the form of grace, empty vessels holding up empty hands that have been lifted up by his strength that we hope he fills (faith?). Grace is God being pleased with us because he wants to and not because he has to.
I think some Christians put way too much stock in impressing God than they do in being impressed by God. Grace is God loving us because he can, not us loving him because we can’t.
I don’t really think I understand grace. I think the minute we think we do is the minute we will probably die because how can God afford for that message to be shared with the buildings full of Christians who think they are impressing God by being in church on Sundays and putting their trinkets into the passing plates and eating stale bread and warm juice? Jesus said it best, though, didn’t he: “It’s not the well who need a doctor, but the sick.”
He also said something like, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” I know for a fact this verse angers people in the church more than any other verse in the Bible because there is not one of us who would dare admit that we are blind. We see all too well which is exactly why we make a wreck of the church. We see all too well which is exactly why the church, some churches anyhow, has become a museum for relics to be admired, dusted, and preserved instead of a distribution center of grace and goods; a feeding trough for the hungry and helpless; a hospital for the beaten and broken; a truck-stop for the weary and worn out. The church should be a pair binoculars or a telescope or reading glasses instead of a mirror. Grace is something we look through not something we look at.
That’s what grace does. It changes our perspective and shifts our gaze. Grace is someone else’s vision and not our own.
I know that’s what upsets people about grace: We prefer to look at ourselves. Grace demands that we do not. Grace demands–yes demands–that we cast our nets wide, and empty. Grace demands that we haul in the catch someone else has provided.
Grace forces us into the uncomfortable position of having to consider someone else which, interestingly enough, is kind of what God did in Jesus.
And grace is unfair to a fault. Newton should have written that song: His unfair Grace, how disturbing the sound, that saves so many like me…
The ones we think deserve the most hell are the ones God invites to the wedding supper; the ones we think will most certainly be under wrath are the very ones being saved; and the ones we hope suffer the worst are the very ones God is in the process of healing the most. And we don’t like it because we know that Scripture says such people are under wrath and, thus, deserve to be. We understand not the mysteries and secrets of how the Kingdom works and grows and produces–nor why God happens to invite to and secure in his salvation the most wretched and ugly among us.
I’m not making predictions for God’s grace because I don’t understand it any more than anyone else. If I did, I would be dead. Grace is someone else seeing me as I am and not me seeing myself as I should be.
Grace is unfair because grace is the business end of God’s dealings with sinners—sinners of all kinds, and not just the ones we think God should deal with, like ourselves. I don’t deserve God’s grace any more than anyone else but I’ll gladly take what he gives.
I’m happy to let God be God. I’m happy to let God save the way God saves. I’m happy to let God save those God saves.
I’m happy that salvation is the work of Jesus, not me. I’m happy it’s about grace and nothing else.