My Love-Hate Relationship with Grace

(MA 15+)

I am such a hypocrite!

The thing I love most about God is his grace


The thing I hate most about God … is his grace.

Recently I have been thinking about the issue I have with swearing. Yes everyone: I swear like a trooper behind closed doors. Today I was thinking about how much I hate the fact that I like to swear. Why do I like it? What’s the pay off?

Part of my addiction to swearing comes from being told by my parents, my school teachers and my pastors, not to swear. I got to 17 and rebelled against this “control” and said “why shouldn’t I swear?” So I started swearing in private, and I have never been able to stop. In fact, I begged God to “make me stop” countless times throughout my twenties. And he obviously said “no.”

That is grace. Yep. God, in his grace: lets me swear. Every day. He doesn’t just put up with my swearing. No. He actually has less of a problem with the fact that I swear, than I do. He’s okay with me swearing. He’s totally forgiven it and accepted it. And yet I sit there and I get angry at him for letting me swear! I get angry at him for not having more control over me.

You see, the grace of God has given human “free will” a really wide rope. Swearing is incidental. God’s grace will let me get away with murder. Maybe not “get away” from the earthly consequences – but he won’t stop me from committing murder.

God’s grace allows cancer to exist on the earth. My mother died of cancer. She died relatively young in fact: she was only 48. That was God’s GRACE. God’s grace is such that God has allowed the world to spiral out of control, and has let people die every day. Some die in the womb. Some die as young children. Some commit suicide. Some die of HIV/AIDS. Some freakin’ starve to death. People die at war. People die in natural disasters. People die in accidents. Death is rampant. And God’s grace allows it.

Yep, sometimes I get angry at God’s grace. Sometimes I get angry that he gives me so much “free will.” I freakin’ hate my own imperfections! And yet God is completely okay with them and completely forgives them.

“But why God? Why would you forgive me? Someone has to pay! I know there are things that are ‘wrong’ with me! I feel guilty. I feel ashamed. I’m bad.” Yet God forgave me before I sinned. Before the foundation of the world in actual fact!

If you’re still reading, you may become considerably uncomfortable with what I’m about to say next. There was never any question in God’s heart about forgiveness. He has always been forgiving (Nehemiah 9:17). His forgiveness is unconditional. In actual fact, Jesus didn’t “have” to die, in order for me to be forgiven for my sins. Nope. God forgave 100% of all human sin before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

Romans 3:25 says that Jesus died as a “demonstration” of forgiveness. He died to prove that God had already forgiven us. Not in order to manipulate God into forgiving us. If God‑the‑Son had to die to manipulate God‑the‑Father, then that is not legitimate forgiveness, because in that version of events: Jesus is the condition of my forgiveness. God doesn’t really forgive me at all. He only forgives Jesus, and I’m only forgiven if I put myself in the hands of Jesus. This teaching undermines the Gospel of grace. God’s grace is much more offensive than Jesus dying in my place to appease an angry God.

Here is the way I understand the Gospel currently: humanity was so offended that God forgave them for free, that we insisted it couldn’t possibly be true!

Take a look at the one time in the recordings of Jesus, that he displayed impassioned anger (John 2). He goes into the temple of God with a freakin’ whip and he starts turning over money tables. Do you know why there were money tables? The Pharisees were peddling FORGIVENESS! They were selling sacrifices so that the people could pay for their sins to appease an allegedly angry God. And what happened: God-in-Christ responded in furious anger: “How dare you sell my forgiveness! I desire GRACE not sacrifice!!!” (Hosea 6:6) Jesus “lost his shit” and overturned the sale of forgiveness. He said an emphatic “NO” to it.

Then, the Pharisees got so mad at Jesus’ grace – at Jesus wanting to dish out forgiveness for free (“who is this man who forgives sins” Mark 2:6) – that they decided to kill him. And Jesus, in his grace, said: so be it! He went and he died, not to appease an angry God. He died to appease humankind because humankind refused to accept free forgiveness.

We, Pharisees, marched him up to that cross and said: “How dare you claim to be God and not punish us for our sins! How dare you eat with prostitutes and consort with uneducated fishermen! What kind of God are you? This is an insult! You can’t just forgive my sins! I’m offended by my sin. I’m offended by other people’s sins. How dare you let us get away with this! We’re gonna kill ya!”

Jesus’ response was: “Father FORGIVE them. They don’t know what they are doing.”

God did not die to appease God.

God died to appease man’s guilt.

God died to reveal that he is all love, all grace, all compassion and all forgiveness.

And still I am offended.

Still I want to say: why didn’t you make me perfect?

Why isn’t the world perfect?

Why don’t you just take control?

But God in his grace knows better. It is not his grace to make robots or puppets out of us. It is his grace to let us make mistakes and totally screw up. And it is also his grace to – gradually – reconcile the world to himself and save us from all this mess.

Jesus, I want to fall in love with your grace. I want to have a heartfelt revelation of the love of God and how it accepts the worst parts of human history, human depravity and human sinfulness. I want to love your grace so deeply, that I will see every difficulty, every trauma and every tragedy, as an allowance of your grace and something that you will never fail to redeem. Amen.

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