Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Grace is Downright Un-American

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.


Bill (cycleguy) said...

Always gets to me when someone says, "If I have hurt you forgive me." What kind of "sorry" is that? On the other hand there is a man here who has suddenly turned off all contact with the church (He's taking a break from church are his words) and from our friendship. I have truly asked him "If I have done something wrong please tell me so I can apologize for it." This guy has cycled with me for 3 years. Read both of your books. And now has disappeared. Sorry that was off topic. Your "if" got me started.

Louise Gallagher said...

I witnessed true grace last week when a man I know encountered a painful situation/reminder of a transgression -- his grace in that moment was inspiring. It struck me that true grace is the capacity to be present in pain and grief, without expecting the other person to carry it, or make you feel better by telling you it's okay, or anything. To simply be present.

Martha J. M. Orlando said...

This sounds like just the type of book I would enjoy reading, Glynn. Thanks for sharing God's grace with us today!

Dusty Rayburn said...

Preach it brother! Grace is a biblical concept. It began with creation, and we were created in it.
God saves us by His grace, and He calls us to live by His grace, in His grace.

jasonS said...

"America, America, God shed His grace on thee..." I guess we forget what we sing about. Such a great point you bring out. If there is no recognition of sin, who needs grace? What a sad position to be so desperately in need of grace yet reject it. Lord, help our nation see Your light...

Thanks Glynn.