Dreamers of the Day

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." -T.E. Lawrence, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thoughts on Grace

“I did not have a perceived need for God. I assumed I did not need Him. Praise the Lord that in these times, He will take my zeal for other things and make it a zeal for Him. For alone, I cannot... anything, self-will eventually dissolves” –Creth Davis

I like this statement because it communicates the amazing part of salvation. I believe that inside each individual is an inclination to do right. I have not met someone who does not have morals, but I hear they exist and would be excited to talk with them. However, most people I know have morals or a gauge of right or wrong. You do not need to believe in Jesus, Allah or Yahweh to be moral. You simply must recognize the inclination inside of you—like Oprah does.

Inclining to be good is not salvation.

One can have an inclination to be good, but that does not help in the explanation of the bad in this world. As I have said recently, Christianity gives me peace not because of the good it forecasts, but the bad it explains. To be saved, one must expect a hope of something good happening (i.e. being rescued from a burning building), but there also must be a recognition of impending danger. One is saved from something bad in full knowledge of the result of the bad. This is the uniqueness of Christianity. How can a finite person understand the impending damage of an angry, infinite God? If Christian so believe that salvation is from Hell alone, then the point of life would be none-hell.

The infinite, spiritual world in our modern, capitalistic, existential world is reduced to that which is seen. The great sins today are those that can be seen vividly: the sexual sins and sins of self-control. A Christian is marked by their appearance and what they do and do not do. Life, spiritual progress and sanctification are measured by sight and if the problem is “seen” any more. The visibility of Christianity has replaced the depth of the invisible soul and comfortable existence is then pursued. That is why a Christian can be doing something routine for long periods of time, long in regularity thinking they are good by their actions.

The perception of the Christian has become finite when an infinite God is alive in them, but they choose not to discover this point.

Such is the discussion of grace. Grace is limited to the sins seen and applied to the external problems. “I have a problem loving this person, so by grace I can say nice things about them.” “I have a problem with my weight, but by grace I will diet and lose this weight.” “It is by grace I received a new car.” Yes, these things can be an expression of God’s grace. Yet, it is often confused with good things, blessings and the like. Grace is rarely associated with painful, arduous situations. That is the point of contention. Grace cannot be a medicinal application for fixing, but something different. One does not use grace as one uses a patch in a tear, plaster on a wall or duct on a leaky hose.

Much like salvation, post-salvation “fixing”—a.k.a. sanctification—is not developed by the person being rescued, but the rescuer. Jesus revealed Himself as “the way” not by giving a list of things to do, but of emptying Himself and dying. It was the fullness of His divinity that allowed Him to vacate his humanity. In other words, if Jesus had grace at its fullest potential, then grace allow the loss of life and not the preservation of it.

If one possesses grace, one will have the strangest desires to give up their life. How is this different than the suicidal bomber who gives their life for the glory of their god? What about Israel in the Old Testament? Didn’t they destroy people, which in theory was in the name of the same God that sent His Son? Why was blood sacrifices demanded by this God who loves and invented grace? To love and not have limits is not love. John Dominic Crossan once stated in a lecture: “Justice without love is brutality. Love without justice is banality.” Justice and the discretion of right and wrong is a natural expression of love. Therefore, in justice, penalties exist. That penalty according to an infinite God is the continual presence of that which represent loss of life—blood. Blood always had to cover the alter by God’s law. God did not demand the loss of life of humanity except for the point of murder or sins that were not confessed.

What about the killing of other people by the Jews? If it is the same God, where was the grace and mercy? Why is this different than some lunatic, suicidal bomber who kills the “wicked” people? If you read the Old Testament you will find that Israel too was massacred. In the Old Testament, it is quite clear that God was not about destroying one people group, and exalting another, but justice. Whether it was His chosen people or another, both experienced His judgment. Could the suicidal bomber be a transit of His judgment? Or, could they be an expression of the sin in this world? Both could be true, but in the end, one must conclude that justice must be present where love exists.

I think grace is more closely related to death than life. I tend to think I need to get grace in order to live the life I am called to. I cannot get it. It is not an economical exchange just like warmth from the sun or the air that I breathe. The part I play in grace is the surrender of life. I have been given life and I am in need of a new life. It happened at the start of salvation and is still needed. This is where grace steps in. Grace allows me to give up my life and live something differently. If Jesus was full of grace, then His example of death in order to live must be applicable to grace. If one wants to experience grace, one must lose their life in order for the other life to live. One cannot live in desire to be Christian while maintaining moral goodness. This is not grace, but religion. Grace calls for an infinite death, as Christ died, and nothing less.


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