Friday, 19 July 2013

The Dilemma of Grace

I think many people have the idea that grace (especially the "new" grace experience) is either a license to sin or a denial of the reality of our nature.

The view point of "license to sin" is simply based on not understanding the purpose and power of grace, and isn't the focus of this post.

Many, however, see that the embracing of the finished work of Christ, in that we are completely one with God, sin free, unconditionally loved, and completely free from any law etc, as being a denial of the reality of our life here and now.

The reality of what Christ did and the new covenant is even far more radical than that. God doesn't even see sin any more and only sees us as perfect loved children, well, more than that! He sees us, in fact, as lovers now, and simply wants us to enjoy him, living beyond the concepts of right and wrong (the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

Now this certainly sounds like a weird and wacky disregard of reality. A complete ignorance of the necessity for law and moral guidelines, and, even worse in some ways, a denial of our personal reality. By that I mean the processes that our minds deal with on a moment by moment basis. The complex dynamics of experience, paradigm, fears, guilt and shame, the handling of relationships that simply can't be nicely sorted and boxed. Our minds just don't resemble the ideal of this grace thing, so it seems like it really is just an ideal, but devoid of common sense and the reality of life.

Here's a quote by Paul Zahl:


Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.

Grace doesn't make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous. It doesn't use sticks, carrots, or time cards. It doesn't keep score. As Robert Capon puts it, “Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free.” It refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit, or deservedness. It is opposed to what is owed. It doesn’t expect a return on investments. It is a liberating contradiction between what we deserve and what we get. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.

It is one-way love.

With this in mind, we have to come to terms with how it affects our inner life, our daily struggles and moment by moment realities. Here's how it works for me:

I'm convinced of the truth about the nature of grace and that the key to living in it is renewing my mind to its reality. So in daily life I take the time to just stop and remember that I really am a new creation, that I am one with God, and that He is completely besotted with me this second and that will never change. That's it! That's living in the "rest" of His love. Its allowing my mind to focus on that simple fact.

I can't change anything about myself, but I can begin the renewing of my mind by just letting myself be loved and allowing that to slowly alter my thoughts and emotions. Of course I'll still do lots of stuff that is not beneficial to God, myself and others. I'll hurt people, make stupid decisions, wrestle with my past and my future - all that stuff. BUT, they no longer define me. The real reality (lol), is everything I need to live loved has been done, that by focusing on that and resting in that place as often as I can, I WILL be changed. It can't be helped. 

The crap of daily life doesn't change, but my responses do. The recognition of my unity with Love himself will change me - it has and it will. This is the life changing power that Paul speaks of in his letters. Its the ONLY thing that brings change. And its simple and goes against everything logic tells us. It goes against religion, morality, tradition and most church doctrines. 

It is freedom! And remember: God is love - live loved!! ;-)