Phillip Yancey's crown jewel of books, "What's So Amazing About Grace?" has been on my nightstand over the past few weeks. I'm learning the glory that is associated with the word, Grace. In his tearjerking chapter, "Lovesick Father," he speaks of Jesus' last act before death, turning to the ordinary sinner and giving mercy. Yancey mentions that throughout the bible, God shows a marked preference for "real" people over "good" people. This is an upside-down gospel, am I right? Yancey challenges the traditional thought that most have: the way to Jesus is to be "good." No, no, the way to Jesus is to cry "help."
I wonder if we have taught this in our churches? Step one, be good. Step two, Jesus. I think of my children, so little and innocent. They did absolutely nothing to "earn" my love for them. They are gifted with unconditional love FIRST and most importantly.
What about obedience? This is the question the church attendance all-star has instantly when I hear the word Grace. I think it's the wrong first question. I believe that grace comes first and obedience follows. If we are working or earning from a heart of wanting to please, don't we become bitter? What if we work, serve, listen and love with grace leading the way? I have a feeling actions of obedience will come next.
I wonder who in your life needs some grace? Is it you? Is it your spouse, your coworker? Yancey talks about how difficult forgiveness and grace is. It does not come naturally, I repeat: We must work at this.
But I wonder what it would look like. When someone tells you their insides, if you meet them with grace instead of a solution or a bible verse. Instead of suggesting an action, what if you moved in with a listening ear, an embrace? love? Reading the bible shows me that Jesus entered in. He moved into the places of hurt and destruction and spread love. Oh, He spread truth too, thank heavens, but I think people listened to the truth because they new He LOVED them.
I'll never forget a sunshiny day at a youth conference I was attending. Broken and living two lives, hoping to find love at this conference, I opened up to a "leader" about my life. She told me I was not okay. She told me this conference was not for me because I was so broken. I'll never forget her rejection, the sting of it still horrifies me.
Oh, and how I have been her. "Pray more!" because I didn't know what else to say. Sometimes when someone shares their deepest fears and darkest thoughts, it feels weird and weighty. What if these scary places were wrapped up in a bright white down comforter of grace and love? The crazy thing is, that's what Jesus is. He died for the sins of the world, we don't have to CARRY them anymore. Instead, we carry our cross with freedom.
Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace? sums up the grace of Jesus,
Kierkegaard puts his finger on perhaps the most important aspect of Jesus' parables. They were not merely pleasant stories to hold listeners' attention or literary vessels to hold theological truth. They were, in fact, the template of Jesus' life on earth. He was the shepherd who left the safety of the fold for the dark and dangerous night outside. To his banquets he welcomed tax collectors and reprobates and whores. He came for the sick and not the well, for the unrighteous and not the righteous. And to those who betrayed him-- especially the disciples, who forsook him as his greatest time need -- he responded like a lovesick father.