Friday, May 9, 2014

That darn grace thing. . .

Grace is alien, foreign, and a scandal to the human mind and heart.  Even when we want to believe it, we are suspect and end up relying on our intentions, our deeds, and our righteousness.  Like the guest who comes to dinner with a bottle of wine even after being told not to bring anything, we find it hard to let to of our need to offer God something in exchange for His gracious gift.  But as soon as we try to offer anything, it ceases being grace at all and we turn the marvelous mercy of God into a mere business transaction in which we give something to get something in return.

How do you preach grace?  Well, I have been reading again and this time another section of one of my favorite authors and preachers, Robert Farrar Capon (rest in peace).  He gets the dilemma of the preacher of grace and the difficulty I find myself in as proclaimer of the insane grace of God and the hearer who finds it impossible to let grace be grace.  You read him:

"And there, if you will, is the ultimate dilemma of the church. The one thing it doesn’t dare try to sell–for fear of being laughed out of town–turns out to be the only thing it was sent to sell. But because it more often than not caves in to its fear of ridicule, it gives the world the perennial spectacle of an institution eager to peddle anything but its authentic merchandise. I can stand up in the pulpit and tell people that God is angry, mean, and nasty; I can tell them he is so good they couldn’t possibly come within a million miles of him; and I can lash them into a frenzy of trying to placate him with irrelevant remorse and bogus good behavior–with sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings, all of which are offered by the law (Heb 10:8); but I cannot stand there and tell them the truth that he no longer cares a fig for their sacred guilt or their precious lists of good deeds, responsible outlooks, and earnest intentions. I can never just say to them that God has abolished all those oppressive, godly requirements in order that he might grant them free acceptance by his death on the cross. Because when I do that, they can conclude only one of two things: either that I am crazy or that God is. But alas, God’s sanity is the ultimate article of their non-faith. Therefore, despite Scripture’s relentless piling up of proof that he is a certifiable nut–that he is the Crazy Eddie of eternity, whose prices are insane–it always means that I am the one who gets offered a ticket to the funny farm."

Why on earth do we prefer a sane and reasonable God who expects something from us in order to give us something instead of the radical God of grace whose insanity includes His Son suffering in our place, dying our death, paying our debt, and rising to bestow upon us the life we do not deserve and aren't even sure we need or want????

God is crazy Eddie --- perfectly insane for us and for our salvation.  It is enough that we try with all our might to resist the impulse to recast this irrational grace into a marketplace transaction of giving and getting.  If we, by the aid of the Spirit, can do just this, we have done a good work indeed!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No, you will not get a ticket to the funny farm, but you will be reminded that in this world no good deed goes unpunished. You will be accused of antinomianism, gospel reductionism, and encouraging gross sinning. But in the world to come you and your accusers will get the same everlasting crown.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart