Posts Tagged grace
Unlike many Christians, I can’t put my finger on the exact moment, day or even month when I became ‘saved’. I know it was about seven or eight years ago when God, through Jesus, became the focus of my life. I certainly thought that I was saved, or at least most of the time I did. Well, maybe some of the time. My new life was usually pretty good, certainly better than it had been, at least spiritually. I just kept praying it would get better.
I do remember the circumstances when God answered my prayers and things did begin to get better, much better. It was while reading “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning. Manning‘s relentless prose exposed me for the helpless legalist that I am and inspired me to begin trusting in God’s infinite and unquenchable grace. I now understand that there was no one moment when I became saved but that I was always in God’s good graces. I just needed to accept that God accepted me – exactly as I am.
Reading the book again, I was reminded how forcefully the following passages struck me:
“Yes, the gracious God enfleshed in Jesus Christ loves us.”
“Grace is the active expression of his love. The Christian lives by grace as Abba’s child, utterly rejecting the God who catches people by surprise in a moment of weakness—the God incapable of smiling at our awkward mistakes, the God who does not accept a seat at our human festivities, the God who says “You will pay for that,” the God incapable of understanding that children will always get dirty and be forgetful, the God always snooping around after sinners.”
“At the same time, the child of the Father rejects the pastel-colored patsy God who promises never to rain on our parade….
…the child of God knows that the graced life calls him or her to live on a cold and windy mountain, not on the flattened plain of reasonable, middle-of-the-road religion.”
“For at the heart of the gospel of grace, the sky darkens, the wind howls, a young man walks up another Moriah in obedience to a God who demands everything and stops at nothing. Unlike Abraham, he carries a cross on his back rather than sticks for the fire…like Abraham, listening to a wild and restless God who will have His way with us, no matter what the cost.”
“This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all.”
“The God of the legalistic Christian, on the other hand, is often unpredictable, erratic, and capable of all manner of prejudices. When we view God this way, we feel compelled to engage in some sort of magic to appease Him. Sunday worship becomes a superstitious insurance policy against His whims. This God expects people to be perfect and to be in perpetual control of their feelings and thoughts. When broken people with this concept of God fail—as inevitably they must—they usually expect punishment. So they persevere in religious practices as they struggle to maintain a hollow image of a perfect self. The struggle itself is exhausting. The legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God.”
“A married woman in Atlanta with two small children told me recently she was certain that God was disappointed with her because she wasn’t “doing anything” for Him. She told me she felt called to a soup kitchen ministry but struggled with leaving her children in someone else’s care. She was shocked when I told her the call was not from God but from her own ingrained legalism. Being a good mother wasn’t enough for her; in her mind, neither was it good enough for God.”
“In similar fashion, a person who thinks of God as a loose cannon firing random broadsides to let us know who’s in charge will become fearful, slavish, and probably unbending in his or her expectations of others. If your God is an impersonal cosmic force, your religion will be noncommittal and vague. The image of God as an omnipotent thug who brooks no human intervention creates a rigid lifestyle ruled by puritanical laws and dominated by fear.”
“But trust in the God who loves consistently and faithfully nurtures confident, free disciples. A loving God fosters a loving people.” [Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel]
In the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel, an exhausted Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Under the relentless Palestinian sun he and this woman have a conversation. Not only is she a Samaritan, generally reviled by the Jews, but also a lowly woman and one of of ill repute at that. Nevertheless he proceeds to engage her in a theological discussion;
“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
“I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
Reading this the other day I was (like his disciples) shocked by the implications of what Jesus was doing here. He was essentially flipping the bird to conventional wisdom and established customs by hanging out with someone who was pretty much a first century ‘untouchable’- you know – one of ‘those’ people. He was also telling her that in his eyes she was just as good as anyone else. OK, she might need to get her act together, but she had no reason to feel ashamed in front of anyone, not even the religious upper class. In fact, there was going to come a time when it didn’t matter how she even went about worshipping God just as long as she was honest, authentic and compassionate. Wow!
Are we there yet?