Saturday, May 17, 2008
Stream of Thought
I was deep in thought yesterday while mowing the yard. There's something about mowing or taking a shower that causes my creative juices to start flowing like no other place. I wish I had all the great thoughts that have come to me while washing and mowing. I have been known to stop either one and write down an insight that I just couldn't take a chance on forgetting, but the true is, volumes could be written from the ideas that I forgot. But I digress. I was thinking about grace yesterday. I started out thinking about how incredible it is and then I started reflecting on why it took so many years before I "got it"? How could I attend Christian schools for ten years and hardly ever hear it taught? (7th grade - college; '64 - '74) Why did it take so long for me to understand that grace wasn't some grading curve that God uses, but the 4.0 He gives me because He loves me and in spite of the fact that I'm the class clown, class trouble-maker, smart-alack, etc, etc?
I put my anthropology/sociology hat on, and some of it starts to make sense. The '50's and '60's are thought of by many as the "hay day of the church" nearing Pentecost proportions, but mostly revealing delusions of grandeur. It was the period right after WW2 when everyone desired and thought of things as completely right or wrong, black or white, and evil vs. good. A belief system that viewed the Word of God in those terms, driven by looking for God-given patterns in Scripture, and needing to feel "right" and maybe even superior - had great appeal during those decades. When you're right - that is, you've discovered all the patterns/truth, there is no need for grace. Grace is license! Grace is liberty! Grace is scary, because the goal is no longer perfection but staying in the right direction (i.e. light). That was certainly not a new fear. In Romans, some Christians thought that grace meant they could sin even more. It would mean, they thought, the opportunity to get more grace. How could that be bad? Of course Paul pointed out that it's because of grace - it's power, love, and it's cost - that we don't want to sin. Yes it's a gift, but it's also the motivation!
It only took several decades of study, preaching, and asking tough questions of God and His Word before I saw that. I'm sad that it took so long, but I'm so glad that I didn't miss it completely. It's also sad that we (yes me too) so often forget it today. Even many of us "liberated" souls, who think we've finally "got it," forget how amazing grace really is. Did you know it's for ultra-conservatives too - even if they don't "get it"? Did you realize that it covers "BIG SINS" as well as the socially acceptable sins? Did you realize that it's most powerful elements are only truly released in our life when we give it away? Could it be that grace is greater that well meaning "creed books"? Could it be that grace is greater than baptism? Could it be that anything and everything that God commands is "essential" at the same level and all applicable to grace? Do we really know what God did? What He does? We all laugh and wink when we say we'll be surprised about who we will see in heaven. My only question is, what have we missed that will make us be surprised?
I guess I still don't have all the answers, but one thing has become very clear to me over that last six months. The only way anyone can truly begin to understand grace is to seek to know the giver of grace as much as you possibly can. If your theology of grace doesn't match the life and spirit of Jesus then you really don't know grace.