Who would ever find grace offensive? We’re talking about God’s free gift. His favor—unsought, unearned, undeserved—yet something God chooses to give because of His great love. In what way is that an offense?
Yet people are offended by this good news. Why? I think there are several possibilities.
1) God’s gift of grace is a result of Man’s need for grace. And why does Man need God’s favor? Because not only are we sinners but our sin prevents us from coming to God on our own.
Some people, however, don’t want to hear about Man’s sin. They’ve bought into the worldly lie that humankind is good (it’s society that’s messed us up! 😮 ) So the idea that God extends His grace is offensive. Only a weak, wounded, incapable person needs a saving hand. Someone who views himself as strong, whole, and adequate might be offended at a person declaring the opposite.
2) God’s grace requires belief in God. Unfortunately, some people are offended by the idea that God exists. If they can’t see Him, then He isn’t, from their perspective. Their unwillingness to accept revelation, and their determination to rely on their own understanding make the idea of a Supreme Being detestable. Consequently, His offer of grace is offensive.
3) God offers grace uniquely through His Son. The idea that Jesus is the only means by which a person can receive God’s grace is offensive to some. Could it be these people don’t like being told what to do, that they don’t handle do-it-or-else very well? Apparently they are offended at the lack of options, at the requirement to proceed through the only open door.
4) God’s grace is a free gift. Some people are adamant that they don’t accept charity. They pay their own way, and they’re determined not to change for God. He offends them by offering to cover for them because in so doing, He’s implying that they can’t make it on their own. And they’re convinced they can.
It seems to me that all these reasons for people to view God’s grace as an offense have one thing in common: pride. Pride colors our view of humankind so that we don’t see our sin nature. Pride keeps humans from accepting revelation over against our own rational interpretation of the world. Pride keeps us from accepting God’s solution instead of the ones people have imagined. Pride keeps a person from realizing he can’t reach God through his own efforts.
So why is grace the offense? Seems to me, grace rubs our pride the wrong way.
This article first appeared here in Feb 2009.