18 March, 2009

Infuriating Grace


Grace is the ultimate gift from God. Grace is the biggest act of love that was ever shown. Grace is what allows someone like me, lift my eyes to the Heavens and address the mighty creator. It forgives me for my sins before I've even done anything wrong. It means I don't have to match up to a perfect ideal and it means that I don't have to earn God's love. So you would think that grace, of all things, would not make me angry.

Right now, you would probably think right. But it wasn't always so. As a new Christian, I found grace abhorrent somehow. Who did God think He was, offering me this free gift; telling me that there was nothing I could do to repay Him for it?! Giving someone a gift out of love on a birthday or when they get married is one thing, grace is a whole different story. Grace isn't a gentle showering of gifts, it is an embarrassingly torrential deluge of love, for which a scribbled note inside a nice card could never express enough gratitude for. It's charity at its widest and wildest, deepest and most humbling. And I didn't like it. I didn't want to feel indebted to God, I wanted to prove I was good enough to earn His favour.

Well, as any Christian will tell you, it didn't take long to become very grateful indeed for grace. You soon realise that God's standard is perfection and you are never going to make that grade. However hard you try, you are not going to be perfect. And it's in that gap between you and perfection that God has neatly inserted grace. And what an amazing bridge it makes.

So, you've finally come to terms with grace and you start to think about love. And guess what? You get angry again. Here you are, having made a fresh comittment to follow God, to read the bible and to try to live out its principles for the rest of you life, and yet God loves you no more than He loves all those people who ignore Him or even deny His existence. All people faithful and unfaithful, moral, immoral and amoral, have equal claim to God's love. Yes, logically you know that God loves everyone equally because He loves everyone maximally and you know that there are better reasons for following the way of the LORD than to become a teacher's pet, but it's still annoying isn't it? I worship a God who doesn't descriminate between people, who doesn't require anybody to earn their love from Him, who doesn't keep a record of right and wrong and whose love is freely available to all. And actually, I wouldn't worship a God who did it any other way.

You see at one point there was a time when people would have been angry about God's love for me. There was a time when I didn't love the LORD and someone, somewhere was angry because God loved me just as much as He loved them for all their church attendence and bible study. Therefore, I am for one, very grateful for God's love. For if He hadn't loved me, would He have run after me shouting and waving His arms, desperately trying to get my attention? If He hadn't loved me that much would He have put in my broad path to destruction all those things that made me notice the narrow path running alongside? At one point, you see, I was - like every Christian is for a time - the newest Christian on earth. Maybe it was only for a millisecond, but for that time I took my place in history because God loved me when I didn't love Him. It wasn't because God had a duty towards me or that he wanted to boost His viewing figures. It was because He loved me. And how then could I possibly begrudge other people God's love? There will be people out there, who do not love the LORD, who live great and good lives and there will be others who live, in every sense, in the gutter, and how could I ever wish them to have less of God's love?

But you see, something has just started happening to me. I'm beginning to get angry again. I thought I had it sorted but it turns out I haven't quite got grace pinned down. Recently I've started getting angry, not that God loves unbelievers like He loves me, but that God loves me like He loves people like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King and the apostle Peter. I do not deserve that. But, I figure, at least these people are human. So maybe I can never live up to God's perfect standard but maybe I can have a shot at the standard these people set? It's worth a try anyway. After all, they didn't deserve grace either.

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