I have grown weary again from hearing and reading about the hardness and arrogance of those who follow Jesus, ‘theologians’ who like the Pharisees before them, set up barriers and limits to the grace of God. So, as I get older, my mind forgets what it has and has not said, so bear with me as I go off on a ‘grandpa rant’ about grace.
I am learning ever so slowly, through recovery, the Big Book, reading Scripture and through life’s lessons, that grace is messy.
We try and portray it as a “suit and tie, Sunday best, bonnet kind of thing.” But it is not. Grace is so much more, so much so that when we even try to define it…all we can do is close our mouths in humility, drop to our knees and ask for it.
The Truth is that grace, like most of life, is messy, disturbing, comforting and doled out to any and all who seek God and ask for it.
Grace is the ‘prostitute’ caught literally in the act and led away to be stoned, Jesus creating space, kneeling down on the ground, writing something, pausing with mercy, waiting…then speaking the loudest truth of all in calmness: let whomever is without sin be the one to cast the first stone. Nothing neat about that scenario; in fact, it’s kind of weird all the way around, especially the crazy grace given from Jesus to the woman caught.
What Jesus did, in and of itself was radical in so many ways: it was counter-cultural, blasphemous, renegade and illegal (in order: men did not talk to prostitutes unless doing business with them behind closed doors, only God could forgive sins, and stopping the stoning of a ‘criminal’ was interfering in the “legal” process). Messy, messy, messy…and nothing but divine grace. Jesus constantly embodied God’s love in ways that we cannot accept; messy ways, so messy in fact that we feel the need to add to it, water it down, or try and infer a different meaning into it.
I mean let’s face it, the disciples were sometimes a bunch of asinine dunces who spoke before they thought, acted with little regard to the consequences, and who sometimes were as thick as oaks, blind to the truth that they were handpicked, loved and in the perpetual presence of the awaited Messiah. And yet, Jesus loved them deeply and dearly. That is messy grace. And here is another thing to ponder: Jesus constantly allowed his followers to be in situations where they were bound to fail, and therefore, would be in need of God’s grace.
God is beautifully messy and so is his grace. But we are too often so concerned about what it will look like such as the lofty glances at those who are different, those who don’t look like us, don’t vote like us, don’t think like us, don’t pray like us (fill in the blank). We want grace to be neat and clean. But it isn’t! It is messy.
Grace is forgiveness to dope fiends and sloppy drunks. Grace is mercy in the face of undeserved mercy. Grace is a prisoner being forgiven and healed. Grace is finding hope in a drug den or kneeling over a toilet after a night of binge drinking.
Grace is sloppy, greasy, and gooey.
Grace is a bloodied, dirty so-called Messiah dangling from a cross, an apparent failure with every one of his followers abandoning him except for a young one named John, his Mother, and a prostitute named Mary. There is nothing clean and tidy about that!
Messy grace sums up the entire Gospel story. Grace is apparent failure with a small flame of hope in the bleakest darkness. Grace is hope in the face of utter despair. Grace is the Creator of the Universe coming to and caring intimately for you and me, messy human beings that we are with all our foibles and frailties.
Grace is messy indeed.
Grace is a group of drunks and addicts finding healing and freedom in church basements, with bad coffee and human stories. Grace is God pursuing us, like the prodigal children we are, running out after us – all muddy and filthy from the pig trough and the brokenness of our lives – falling down on his knees, holding onto us tightly, weeping for joy that we have finally come Home.