What’s so scary about grace? Plenty. First off, we don’t receive very well. It’s an affront to our pride. Like two men fighting over the bill, it’s all about pride. You lose that battle, you feel like you’re the little guy and he’s the big guy. You have to be pretty low to have no choice but to receive, but that’s why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20). The Luke version doesn’t add “in spirit” like Matthew does. It’s the stripped down version: just the poor. The poor can only receive; they have nothing to give, and since that’s the only way grace comes, they are therefore blessed. It’s the only way to be blessed, through the poverty of pocketbook, or the poverty of soul, otherwise, you don’t understand grace. That’s pretty scary.
Then there’s the fact that you can’t control grace. You don’t know who gets it and who doesn’t. You can’t judge people because of this. You don’t know who’s in or who’s out. There’s no code of behavior that tells you who’s who. Some of the most surprising people are going to be recipients of God’s grace. You’re pretty much awash in a sea of diverse humanity. This isn’t the safe homogeneous group you thought it was. This is not a church of people who all look like you. These are people who formerly scared you because they were so different from you. Now you’ve got nothing to compare anyone to. In fact, you are a minority in this group. Sameness doesn’t mean anything here except that we are all recipients of God’s grace. And that’s pretty scary.
There are criminals here: abusers, rapists, drug dealers, killers, cheaters, con men, extortionists, and thieves, rubbing shoulders with lawyers, doctors, missionaries — good, law abiding citizens who since have discovered we all got here the same way. Grace has suddenly put everybody on an even keel. I wanted God’s grace to go to people like me but it doesn’t seem to know any bounds. We’re all so different, but we’re all so very much the same, and that’s pretty scary.
And then there is that bit about about trust. Without grace you could trust everyone to a standard of behavior. It’s so much easier to get people to conform. You can hold the standard over people and kick out those who don’t follow the rules. You have some sense of control to appeal to. With grace you have to trust everyone to the Spirit and you can’t control that. And how scary is that? Pretty scary.
With grace, you just have to learn to let a lot of things go — things you trusted in before that don’t matter anymore. And that’s pretty scary, but it’s also totally liberating. And that’s not scary at all!
Great post, John! It reminds me of a scene from C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce. It has a man who is going on and on about having his rights. “I’m not asking for anybody’s bleeding charity!” he said. “Then do! At once!” replied his guide. “Ask for the Bleeding Charity. Everything is here for the asking and nothing can be bought.”
Anther great Catch Pastor John! Loved this: ” We’re all so different, but we’re all so very much the same, and that’s pretty scary.”
These concepts may be easier to embrace as ones life is nearing its end and one reflects on what they could have done better or differently.
How does one believe or engage in these ideals when they have many years left, are taught self-absorbed attitudes, learn not to trust anyone but themselves, and find their satisfaction in the opiates of multiple distractions?
While the Holy Spirit is an effective influence and calls on everyone to exhibit His Character of Grace, how can we as an elder generation effectively relay that torch of Grace to succeeding generations who are constantly bombarded by issues such as personal validation and may not be seeking (or caring about) proof of eternal things?
One key to communicating to younger generations is to listen carefully. Often I think we are busy presenting answers to questions they aren’t even asking. If our concerns are different than theirs, then we need find out what they are. It’s not about us.
The comment of bobnearseattle gave me pause this morning… as someone who lives with and works closely with young adults (age range 16-40), I understand this comment at a deep level. I have no answers. I do think that to “effectively relay that torch of Grace” (so well-said), in my life anyway the one-to-one relationship has been the vehicle through which holy influence and God’s grace is expressed. For me, focusing on building a relationship with unconditional and non-judgmental acceptance has opened doors to communication and trust.
Through this one-to-one, heart-to-heart, I have experienced God working through me to ignite some sparks (using the torch of grace analogy). Not my words, but rather God’s grace expressed through patience, listening to understand, seeking to know someone’s “why”, honoring boundaries, and so much more.
Thanks to Pastor John for this post, and to bobnearseattle for his comment…. because now I have deep ponderings that weren’t there before, and that’s how I grow I guess.
bobnearseattle, I agree that it is easier as ones life is nearing the end. The truth seems more relevant because now the focus is on heaven when it used to be on heaven but not really. That is why I teach kids who have ideals, look at me skeptically, and yet some of them do see the distractions of this world. I often confront them with, ‘ It took me 74 years to get to this point, why should you waste so much time. ‘… how can we as an elder generation effectively relay that torch of Grace to succeeding generations…’ The answer for me is prayer, gut wrenching prayer. Before I teach, prayer to the Spirit is constant, also in between and in my prayer group. The response of the young people shows me that God is answering my/our prayer. We have been praying for years by the way and results are starting to come in…our church has a rock solid K-12 youth program, good Christian teachers and leaders that realize that their relationship with God is numero uno on the priority list. Getting there is hard, staying there is equally difficult. During the process it was often in my mind to give up. God did not let me.
As I often hear people say, all I can do is pray. Then do that and then get busy and see where God is working. It seemed you were somewhat bemoaning what we all see. A man of your intellect and savy I am sure has thought of this as well, yet this generation is perplexing and not seeking more than the temporary is definitely unnerving. I always enjoy your responses Bob and sense that you already knew the answers to these questions. They made me think, and I pray that more catch members may find your questions compelling.
One of your best ever, John. Thank you!
Were we, now the “elder generation,” all that much different when WE were the “hope for tomorrow”? Our goals were just as lofty; we were just as dismissive of our parents’ & grandparents’ views; we were just as convinced that we had all the answers. Solomon was right – there’s nothing new under the sun – but for old AND young, it’s all new to US. Life is a maze, and amazing, no matter what stage we’re in. It’s trying and perplexing and yes, frightening… is it any wonder that God reminds us over 300 times not to fear? The older I get, the more I realize how few answers I have. At this point, I think I’m down to ONE: God IS, and some days, that’s all I need to know.