God’s Great Grace

God's Great GraceApparently one of my favorite topics is God’s grace. I know this because I have twenty-four posts archived under that category title. I credit my former pastor Dale Burke for putting God’s grace front and center Sunday after Sunday, until I began to understand its significance.

I can’t say that I have any new insights, but I have thought about grace since I joined a Facebook group last week called Faith vs. Reason: The Friendly Debate. I was invited to join the closed group by a Christian writer friend. There are upwards of two hundred people—some atheists and some theists—who have agreed to discuss things that divide us in a friendly manner rather than in the usual name-calling, snarky, dismissive way that so often dominates discussions elsewhere.

One thing that came up on the first day I was in the group was the bad religious experiences some of the atheists reported. They’d been in a church, usually in childhood, but their experience left them confused and questioning until they chucked the whole thing.

My first thought when I read their account was, they’d been in a “earn your own way” religion that didn’t teach or show God’s grace. So these now embittered or indifferent atheists came to believe there was not anything of substance in the ritual and mechanical adherence to traditions they’d been taught.

But here’s the fatal error: they concluded that since the religion they were in was empty, God was a sham. The point is, they didn’t know Him if they didn’t know about His grace. And they weren’t going to find His grace by working harder at religion.

Grace truly is the dividing line. Not just between Christians and atheists but between false religion and true. And the fact is that NO OTHER RELIGIOUS TRADITION even pretends to be built upon grace.

It’s just too impossible to fathom or achieve. A free gift? Total forgiveness and no retribution or reprisal or debt? Who would come up with an idea like that?

It runs counter to what we humans expect. We get payback. The revenge motif is ingrained in our DNA. We never have to ask, why would Mr. Bates in the Downton Abby story want revenge against Mr. Green who raped his wife. A non-Christian writer can create story tension knowing that all the viewers understand the rationale behind a husband acting against someone who hurt his loved one. There’s no religious underpinning when it comes to revenge. It’s human nature.

But grace? Just the opposite. Who would understand someone struck on the cheek offering the other side as well? Or rescuing an enemy from muggers, then paying the medical bill?

Human acts of grace aren’t something Christians do because of our goodness but because of the example Jesus Christ gives. He came to save and to serve. The King of all creation! He came! He emptied Himself, leaving the glories of heaven. He offered Himself up. He died. And thanks be to God, He rose again!

It’s that single act of sacrifice that turns the world upside down. God dies that Mankind might live. If only we believe. We, the sinners, deserving of death. He the Righteous One, in whom the Father is well pleased.

How can such a thing be apart from grace. It’s the One True God’s unique identifier. The pretenders have rules and rituals, prophets and power. They have followers, some willing to lay down their lives for what they believe. But where’s the grace?

Belief system after belief system comes up with things to do to be better, to earn favor, to reach a higher plane. None of them acknowledges our inevitable failure, no matter our good intentions. That’s why the 2015 New Year’s resolutions are already a thing of the past. The Bible says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And at some point, we all know this to be true. No matter what we wish we’d said or done or not said or not done, it’s too late. All we can do is say we’ll try harder next time, and try to make amends for our failings.

Grace is not like that.

Behold the Author of our salvation
Behold the wonder of grace so free
Behold the blessing of true forgiveness
At Calvary (from “Come And See,” Your Grace Finds Me, Matt Redman,Jason Ingram, Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin)

Published in: on February 2, 2015 at 6:33 pm  Comments (6)  
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