Admittedly, I am a simpleton and, of course, this admission will preempt all possible considerations of what I write. The opposite of faith isn’t doubt. (I know, someone is already emotionally lathered up). It seems the opposite of faith is more so an impossible need for certitude in matters that are simply beyond the scope of human comprehension. The de-nominational (doesn’t even sound right) monologues and incessantly dualistic “I’m RIGHT, You’re Wrong,” ALL or NOTHING, Either Or, routine is tantamount to trying to kill a kitchen fire with five gallons of kerosene. I truly appreciate the heady, lofty, lengthy, seemingly quite intellectually stimulating if not even boorishly bombastic offerings here, but at some point, does the possibility remotely exist that (I hate to say it) none who has expended enormous amounts of emotional and mental capital here (myself included) have no earthly idea what we’re prattling on about with all of this theologically insufferable pomp and presumption? Apologetics is a shame. It is a chess game an impasse. It desires not to bring lost souls to Christ in all the chaos and intellectual hubris of those hung up on winning a battle just to forfeit the war. Duality at its most pathetic. Listen to what Christ, who is holier than the bible, says inside the Bible in John 5:39-44 and let’s get real. (And this angered the hell out of yet another chap). Rumour has it that Christ is alive, here and Now.
“You have your heads in your bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These scriptures are all about Me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from Me the life you say you want. I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of My father, and you either dismiss Me or avoid Me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God? BUT don’t think I’m going to accuse you before My Father. Moses, in whom you put so much stock, is your accuser. If you believed, really believed, what Moses said, you would believe Me. He wrote of Me. IF you won’t take seriously what he wrote, how can I expect you to take seriously what I speak?”
The gospel itself is neither liberal nor conservative but severely critiques both sides of this false choice. The true good news of Christ will never fill stadiums, because dualistic masses can never collectively embrace an enlightened “Third Way,” which, contemplatively speaking, always feels a bit like nothing, because in this position you are indeed like Christ—you have “no place to lay your head.” Just like the mystery of the Father. Just like the crucifixion of the Son. Just like the anonymity of the Spirit. There are commonly two kinds of human beings: there are people who want certitude and there are people who want understanding; and these two cannot understand one another. Really. Those who demand certitude out of life will insist on it even if it doesn’t fit the facts. Logic has nothing to do with it. Truth has nothing to do with it. “Don’t bother me with the truth—I’ve already come to my conclusion!” If you need certitude, you will come to your conclusion. You will surround yourself with your conclusion. If here, the casket closes, the heart hardens, and wonderment ceases. It is heaven all the way to heaven, and it is hell all the way to hell.
The bloody hubristically well-beaten horse is surely begging to be buried. The bush has been beaten around and I dare say it hasn’t much foilage left on it.
Are we all self-satisfied, priggishly attempting to make ‘our respectively and surely respectable’ points, or is there something of a mystery of the Creator of the universe we really don’t have a clue about? Is there any wonderment left or are we bantering and beleaguering, very simply, the Grace and Truth realised through Jesus Christ? Not Grace BUT Truth, GRACE AND TRUTH. Not mutually exclusive. But we sure are! I know this sounds heretical, but from what I’ve heard, grace was and IS God’s idea. “Lord? I don’t know, You do.” This insolent desire if not demand to prove our pathetically pontifical points isn’t helping anyone who just might need and crave a Loving God, a Compassionate Christ, a Wonderfully Kind Comforter. I know. I know. Before you say it, such seeking and, unlike most of us prigs in here, sincere souls aren’t caught up in the rapture of our low-browed blue blooded attempts to impress people we don’t even like. Forget about your damnable opinions and denominational attachments, your self-salvation project which, quite frankly, doesn’t give a jam about love, unity, truth, grace or even the good Lord Himself. Spend so much time talking ABOUT God, that we come to care nothing of relating with God. God isn’t a “belief system.” He’s not a car manual. I wouldn’t blame anyone who came into this debacle seeking this godawful GRACE many of you 1st hour parable Productive Members of Society (PMS) producers moan about. Aw, get off it. You’ve said worse than that.
Jesus did not come to found a separate or new religion as much as he came to present a universal message of vulnerability and unity that is necessary for all religions, the human soul, and the earth’s survival. By very definition, vulnerability and unity do not compete or dominate. The Cosmic Christ (John’s prologue, Colossians 1:14-18, Genesis 1:26) is no threat to anything but separateness, illusion, and the imperial ego. In that sense, Jesus, the Christ, is the ultimate threat, but first of all to Christians themselves.
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold. Grace is one-way love. Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive His most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous. It doesn’t use sticks, carrots, or time cards. It doesn’t keep score. As Robert Capon puts it, “Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free.” It refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit, or deservedness. It is opposed to what is owed. It doesn’t expect a return on investments. It is a liberating contradiction between what we deserve and what we get. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love.
Think about it in your own life for a moment. Odds are you have caught a glimpse of one-way love at some point, and it made all the difference. Someone let you off the hook when you least expected or deserved it.
A friend suspended judgment at a key moment. Your father was lenient when you wrecked his car. Your teacher gave you an extension, even though she knew you had been procrastinating. You said something insensitive to your spouse, and instead of retaliating, she kept quiet and somehow didn’t hold it against you the next day. If you’re married, odds are the person you ended up with showed you this kind of love at some point along the line.
When the chain of quid pro quo is broken, all sorts of wonderful things can happen. One-way love has the unique power to inspire generosity, kindness, loyalty, and more love, precisely because it removes any and all requirement to change or produce. And yet, as beautiful and lifesaving as grace can be, we often resist it. By nature, we are suspicious of promises that seem too good to be true. We wonder about the ulterior motives of the excessively generous. We long ago stopped opening letters that tell us what we’ve “already won.” What’s the catch? What’s the fine print? What’s in it for them? Grace is a gift, pure and simple.
We might insist on trying to pay, but the balance has been settled (and our money’s no good!). Of course, even if we’re able to accept one-way love when it comes our way, we have trouble when it reaches other people, especially those who’ve done us wrong. Grace offends our sense of justice by being both implausible and unfair. We are uncomfortable because grace turns the tables on us, relieving us of our precious sense of control. It tears up the time card we were counting on to be assured of that nice, big paycheque on Friday. It forces us to rely on the goodness of Another, and that is simply terrifying. However much we may hate having to get up and go to the salt mines every day, we distrust the thought of completely resting in the promised generosity of God even more. So we try to domesticate the message of one-way love— after all, who could trust in or believe something so radically unbelievable?
Allow one to pompously articulate the prayer of the grace-averse heart:
“Restore to us, Preacher, the comfort of merit and demerit. Prove for us that there is at least something we can do, that we are still, at whatever dim recess of our nature, the masters of our relationships. Tell us, Prophet, that in spite of all our nights of losing, there will yet be one redeeming card of our very own to fill the inside straight we have so long and so earnestly tried to draw to. But whatever you do, do not preach grace…. We insist on being reckoned with. Give us something, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance. We what to earn our daily bread and be sure those guys in the 11th hour parable who only put in an hour get at least our wrath and dose of shame since it’s clear we don’t think you dealt with them fairly. Please don’t give us anything! We’re above this grace stuff!” -Pastor Pomposity
The idea that there is an unconditional love that relieves the pressure, forgives our failures, and replaces our fear with faith seems too good to be true.
Longing for hope in a world of hype, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the news we have been waiting for all our lives. Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. Jesus came to release us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, and validate ourselves.