It could be tennis or home school or the stack of chips on my shoulder from growing up poor or exploits in entrepreneurship or rugged American individualism, but there is a part of me that recoils and rebels at grace.
Nowhere was this more viscerally, practically, and spiritually played out than in the month of December.
December was a month of incredibly visible grace in our lives. Kindness after generosity after more kindness followed by yet more generosity, flooded our experiences – four noteworthy ones to be exact – throughout the last month of 2010.
The first such act involved someone in our church giving us a gift which we, unquestionably, could not afford. I suppose, theoretically, we could possibly, at some point in the future, afford the gift. But at this stage of our lives, not a chance.
To my dismay, the first reaction in my heart upon receiving the gift was anger. Followed by jealousy. Then covetousness and rivalry. Thoughts ran through my head of “I want to be able to provide this for my family. I do not want to have to rely on someone else to provide it.”
Not to get all mystic, but the Lord kept me up that night, slowly but surely delivering the knock out blow to my stubbornness, with the words (so to speak) “THAT’S the point.” In other words, that’s grace.
Modern evangelicals have heard the mercy/grace distinction definitions so much I think we’ve become calloused to the humility involved in receiving both. I know I have.
When we go through difficult times, I think we, or at least I, try to recapture something comforting in the past. Oftentimes, I have mistakenly concluded the current difficulty is directly attributable to some wrong turn or detour I took in the past. While that analogy can be true – as played out in Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian leaves his scroll behind and must endure a sorrowful journey to retrieve it – I have slowly concluded that current difficulty is not always the result of past mistakes.
In other words, current challenges do not mean that I understood rightly before, got my wires mixed up, and need to uncross the wires to return to a right understanding. In my current circumstances, what I have discovered is that my understanding of God’s grace has always been deficient. I have always had a debtor’s ethic firmly entrenched in the core of my being. I have had my own agenda which I have insisted on forcing upon the Lord (one of the Poisonous Premises I am working on, namely, that if we do X, God will invariably do Y) and I have firmly believed that the Lord will find my effort noteworthy.
I can’t help wondering if, perhaps, this is what Solomon was getting at when he said “Don’t say within your heart, “why were the old days better?” Because they were most likely not. In my case, I am realizing this is true. How could they have been better if instead of receiving grace I repelled it?
I mentioned tennis and home school and a stack of chips on my shoulder and entrepreneurship and American individualism…but even without those, to quote Spurgeon, “the natural legality of my heart” must “insist I have something to do with my salvation.”
The Lord has been bending His bow and aiming His arrows at my pride for sometime – on this issue specifically.
Perhaps this helps describe my abhorrence of money making, debtor’s ethic promoting pastorpreneurs.
Meaning…the popular interpretation of Matthew 7:3-5, that what we see in other people is often the biggest in our lives. As I have railed against works based, Jesus plus, merit oriented “gospel” it is because I have been staring down the same railroad plank in my own soul for several years.
Initiative and ambition and competitiveness and separating myself from the pack have all colored my interpretation of grace.
So far, this realization has not deterred my desire to argue against popular evangelicalism, but it seems to have calmed and steadied it. For those interested, I have been working on a thorough article entitled “Mark Driscoll Sounds An Awful Lot Like the Devil” which compares one of his sermon transcripts to an alliteration of the charges the devil brings against Christians, as told in the artful and illustrious words of Charles Spurgeon.
The similarities are chilling.
I am still greatly opposed to such men who would distort the gospel, whether with works or for profit, but I sense the opposition is beginning to stem from a restful acceptance of grace and not an inward rebellion against it.
I am interested to see how this motivational shift will impact my days going forward. Just a few weeks in and I can say the yoke has been easier and the burden much lighter and I sense that is a very good thing.