I’m reading Andy Stanley’s The Grace of God, and a thought keeps forcing its way into my mind, or perhaps it’s rising from somewhere within my mind.
Stanley puts grace in its proper context, and that’s the context of creation and the fall. Without understand the place of grace in both, and especially the fall, we inevitably all into the “mean God” of the Old Testament versus the “loving God” of the New Testament trap (and it is a trap). The fall changed everything, as Stanley points out, and with it came shame, impaired judgment, pain, sin – and our tendency to blame God for our troubles..
The thought that keeps recurring is how un-American this all is.
“In American culture,” Stanley writes, “we’ve substituted the term mistake for the terms wrong and sin. We aren’t sinners; we are really just mistakers…A mistake is something you make while balancing your checkbook. A mistake is an accident.
People who make mistakes in American public life often say they misspoke, if it is something they said. Or public figures (including celebrities and movie stars) will start a public apology with the word if: “If I offended anyone, I’m sorry.”
Any apology that begins with the word if is not an apology. That two-letter word is a statement: “I’m saying this because my press agent says I have to, but I didn’t really do anything wrong.”
We Americans have this philosophy. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We work hard and get ahead. We are special, and we are exceptional.
You can see where sin and wrong fit into that philosophy. They don’t. And if they don’t, then the concept of grace doesn’t either.
We Americans don’t get things unless we deserve them. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to be. We work hard and do right and by golly we’re going to do well and get to heaven one day.
It’s easy for Christians to conflate Christianity and patriotism. Evangelicals, rightly and wrongly, became famous for it in the last two decades.
This idea of grace – that we receive something simply because of the generous outpouring of God – is not an American idea, although our history is chock full of examples of it. It is a Biblical idea, and has been with us since creation.
And all we have to do is receive it.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading The Grace of God. To see more posts on chapter 1, “In the beginning, grace,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by Julie Gentry via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.