“Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more…and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.” Philip Yancy – What’s So Amazing About Grace?
I am not a theologian. I am not a learned man. And what I am writing here is merely a conversation I have been having with Abba. It may offend. It may be poor theology. But as far as I am concerned theology more often than not gets in between me and God rather than lead me to him.
Over the last two years I have seen, heard and experienced God’s tremendous grace about as much as I have experienced the asinine lack of grace shown by many people who cite the title Christian.
So God’s grace has been on my mind a great deal lately, for reasons both personal and public. And more importantly what has been on my mind is how ‘we’ – Christians and churches – define it as well as how religion defines and how God reveals it. I am sure there are some who will disagree with the words that follow, even those I love and who love me, but I am OK with that. I am, if truth be told, a God-work-in-progress and far from perfect and will never be perfected in this body. And since I know and believe the only thing perfect in this world is God’s grace, I’ll leave this blog and judgment to God and God alone.
There is much talk about grace – real grace and cheap grace. I’ve heard the term ‘cheap grace’ tossed around quite a bit and it is usually done so in the context of people praying the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ and continuing on in the sin they were desperately found in. I have also heard used in the context of those ‘accepting’ God’s grace and then abusing it by living as willy-nilly as they please.
I may not know much, but what I do know is this: there is nothing cheap about grace regardless of what we do or do not do with it. Saying that I have the power to ‘cheapen’ grace equates my power with the power of the cross. That is my problem with the phrase ‘cheap grace’ for it, once again like much of evangelical spirituality, moves the focus on to me and not where it should be: on God.
Saying I have the power to cheapen grace in fact cheapens grace more than any sin I could commit by omission or commission for it places me and my so-called power above that of the cross. Philip Yancy is right in saying that an infinite God cannot love me more or less because to do so would be to take away from God’s absolute divinity and perfection. The only thing that can “make” God love me more or less is merely my perception of that love. I may perceive through sin, pain, the past, shame, depression or addiction that God loves me more or less (and this based on my actions and not God’s) but God cannot love more or less, God can only love as an infinite and eternal God can: perpetually and perfectly. And so I believe it is with grace.
I cannot earn more of God’s grace or lessen it. God’s grace is not like a Frequent Flyer Program: I can’t earn miles and if unused I do not lose them. My choices in life can open me up to deeper experiences of God’s love and grace and they can close me off from receiving his love and grace. But God’s grace and love are still ever-faithful.
Experiencing the radical nature of God’s grace leads to a deeper experience of his love for us. Grace is grace. Whether I accept it freely and live in it freely are choices that Abba has given to me and you. Grace cannot be forced for then it becomes religion – a set of rigid rules and hoops to dance through in order to experience God and grace.
So I am musing here: What cheapens grace more living in the freedom of grace or living in fear of that freedom? Is grace cheapened by living in the wide freedom of God’s grace? Or is grace cheapened when we fear that freedom, enacting rules and regulations (man-made benchmarks rivaled only by the Book of Leviticus) dangling grace like a carrot on a stick?
What I think cheapens grace is the agenda some Christians preach and subtly manipulate us with saying that to truly know Jesus we must jump through certain hoops. Only when we are free to love God, and freed by God’s love, can we begin to even start fathoming the nature of grace that flows from Jesus. It seems like five minutes after someone experiences God’s grace, we start to hanging rules on them like weights around the ankles and this when people already feel as if they are drowning.
I know there are people out there who are going to take issue with me, and my response to them is the foundation of this writing: if we do love God then why can’t we actually totally trust God to change whatever it is about me that is ‘wrong’ or broken? In my 25 years of following Jesus, I have evolved, fallen, walked way, run to him and run away from him, but one consistent experience I have had is that well-intentioned folks play Holy Spirit far too often. And the last time I checked there is only One Holy Spirit: And it is not me and it is not you. Of course we can are often are the conduits for the Spirit’s truth, but when we think we have “cornered the market on spiritual truth” or knowing God’s will, we are on precarious footing, and the truth is often lost even in the best of intentions.
I get the sense that there is an ever deepening awakening occurring within the realms of Christendom and within people’s hearts: a hunger to truly experience the freedom that Abba’s love (and only Abba’s love) can bring…freeing us from the throngs of shame, addiction, depression, control, fear, and the false illusions called security and religion. The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is smug certainty. For all throughout the Scriptures we have stories of ordinary, broken people called by God who sometimes doubted, ran away from, denied God or fell away. But God still continued to call them and use them…and that is Grace.
I am not a pastor, nor a shepherd I am just a follower…of Jesus; and the message here for me is let go of the baggage, for if my hands are ‘full’ holding all this rigid baggage preventing me from living free in Abba’s love through the power of the cross, then all I have left is the baggage and no room for Abba’s grace.