Jan 14, 2010

Blue-light Special on Grace, isle 3.

First of all... Thanks to Karl of guitarforworship.com for giving me some love on his blog. (See the link on my blogroll to the right.) I have no idea how the guy who's blog I've been following for over a year found mine, but nonetheless I accept the gratitude.

Which brings me to today's topic (Uh oh): The word "accept" is very strange. We often talk about accepting gifts, compliments, etc., but is it really possible to not accept a gift? Well, yeah I guess it is. So, rather, does the rejection of a free gift make the gift non-existent? Of course not. So why do we do it so often? If someone give a child a toy and she doesn't like it, she'll throw it down and pretend to ignore it. But it's still there. It's still hers. The giver isn't going to take it back just because the child is, well, a child.

(On a side note--It's already the third paragraph of this blog entry and I've yet to bitch about Christians. I apologize for the delay. [Yay for "delay"! Ok Karl I hope you're reading this.] Hopefully paragraph 4 is soon enough for you. And by you, of course I mean me. Ok, back on track now.)

This idea of acceptance gets me thinking about the modern Christian idea of "accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior", or accepting him into your heart, or whatever. I've always secretly struggled with this notion, even though I can point to the time in my own life at age 9 that I participated in this blue-light-special ritual. "It's by grace you've been saved," they'll say, "so you better accept Christ so you can go to Heaven. Also--We have your credit-card information, right? Right. Ok, good. Where was I? Oh yeah--Bow your heads and say this prayer with me so that you can be saved by grace through faith."

If the word grace actually means gift, then one shouldn't have to actively accept it, because the act of accepting it becomes the price you pay for receiving it. In other words, saying "the prayer" becomes a good work through which grace is accepted. So really, it becomes "by grace through good works." And if good works are involved, it's not grace, it's payment. Which means it's something we've earned. Which means God owes us grace for being so awesome. Which He doesn't. Hence, the need for grace.

So if acceptance doesn't have anything to do with it, I'm starting to wonder if the Calvinists are on to something. Lucky for me, Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers some insight, noting the difference between "cheap grace" and "costly grace":
Grace as the data for our calculations means grace at the cheapest price, but grace as the answer to the sum means costly grace. It is terrifying to realize what use can be made of a genuine evangelical doctrine. ..."Justification by faith alone" is a misuse of the formula that leads to the complete destruction of its very essence.
When you think of grace as a way to justify an inability to stop sinning, you're left with cheap grace, the grace of the institutionalized post-Constantine Christianity. But when grace answers the question, "How?", i.e., "How can I go on?" or "How did I get into this mess?" or "How can this ever be made right?" or, to paraphrase Bono, "How can such a fucked up world ever be saved?", there true grace is found: Costly grace.

So I'm still left with this question regarding grace: If acceptance isn't a factor, then why do some people not have it? And quite obvious those people are--You know, bad people who murder and steal and rape and otherwise plunder Creation. And not to mention all the people that are perhaps not bad, but just have ignored Christ's call to follow Him--The people stuck in the daily grind, trying to achieve the so-called American Dream, at the expense of being the revolutionary human God intended them to be. And then there's... Oh, wait... The next person in line is... me. A mere 3 sentences down the line from "bad people"; a person who daily misses the mark when it comes to responding to Jesus' call to be the most human I can be: A disciple.

And that brings me back to grace--costly grace--the means wherein the mere opportunity to be a disciple is offered, and the notion of "being saved" becomes nothing more than a product of cheap grace. Faith doesn't help me become a disciple, I just have to do it. Then, obedience will lead me to faith, which will lead to more obedience, and so on, until the Word is as flesh.

But really... Will that time ever come?

(insert grace here)


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