Author’s Note: this was originally published January 16, 2013
I keep hearing a great deal about God’s ‘grace’ these days but seeing very little of it from Christians. And quite honestly, I have little use for empty words and false piety when it comes to some of the commentary on God’s grace.
My take on Christianity (whether Catholic or Protestant) is that Christianity is meant to be a grace, mercy and compassion-filled intimacy with God; a passionate, living, breathing relationship with our Creator…and one based more on freedom than rules to follow, hoops to jump through or religiosity.
Most of us, if we are honest, take this relationship as an “outward-in” approach, which is more often than not based on human effort rather than God’s.
As I keep learning, God’s grace is both quite comforting and disturbing. It is comforting because it cannot in any way ever be earned by any human effort. It is disturbing for precisely the same reasons: it cannot be earned by any human effort and it flows and is given to whomever God so chooses and whomever asks regardless of whether I like it or not.
Some 2,000 years ago the people that “got” the message of Jesus best were often the ones who had been shut out of grace the most: prostitutes, the untouchables, the rejected and scorned, the poor, orphans, widows (all women for that matter), the hopeless and helpless, even the betrayers known as the tax collectors (those whom worked for the Empire siphoning money from their brothers and sisters to earn a living).
The ones who did not get it were the so-called ‘righteous’, the pious, those who tried (in vain) to follow the “letter of the law” thereby blocking the very vein from which flowed God.
I fear that there are many today (myself included sometimes) who are falling prey to the same tendencies, turning this truly amazing grace – this absolutely upsetting and freeing Grace – into an outward appearance. And this Outward-in approach is a shell for the real deal, a con job hidden in human effort rather than hidden in God.
The truth is that God’s disturbing and comforting grace is a complete Inside-out job. We come into relationship with God and he changes us; and he does so from the inside-out! In no way, shape or form do we author or control the changing. God does. All we can truly do is ask in faith, be open and receptive. We ask for God to come to us, to take over every facet of our lives, and God does. And then God does the changing in his time, in his way working and molding us like soft clay on the Loving Potter’s wheel.
This can be quite disturbing to many people. For it is not about appearances, church attendance, the size or particular theological ‘slant’ of your church, or buildings, or even based on piety or how spiritual we are.
It is solely about God’s grace, not our effort.