Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Gift of Grace

I'm so glad that eternity doesn't depend upon my ability to pass a test! By the grace of God in Christ I am saved, and by his mercy eternal life is a reality. So, why is it that we get so caught up in crossing all the "t's" and dotting all the "i's"?

I come from a religious tradition that emphasizes exactness in an approach to the interpretation of Scripture and religious practice. It is admirable to want to understand God's Word as fully and completely as possible. After all, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matthew 5.6). BUT, my mental capabilities are imperfect; all men (and women!) have some deficiency in mental acumen. There will always be some shortcoming (and probably many) when it comes to my comprehension of the Bible. I will never score a 100 on a comprehensive exam of Scripture. And, so there will always be some shortcoming in my practice of God's will. But, isn't that the whole reason for the cross?

My point? There was a wonderful Christian man in Childress that used to ask me these questions, "Does God accept a 95? How about an 85? What does he do with a 70? Does he grade on a curve? Do only the students at the top of the class pass?" His questions were rhetorical, he had his answer in mind, but he was simply asking me these questions to challenge my thinking and to make the point that the arrogance that so many have regarding their understanding of Scripture and their perception that the knowledge and understanding of others doesn't measure up is foolish . . . if not sinful.

Let me state the point this way: Did Jesus hang on the cross only to have us be required to pass a Bible-competency exam before salvation could be secured? NO, Jesus died on the cross because of the weaknesses of man . . . weaknesses that very well might (and likely do) include shortcomings when it comes to understanding Scripture.

I don't know of a perfect church (and I use the term broadly). Every church has its shortcomings . . . we are all humans in need of God's grace, after all. So, how audacious it is of me to point my finger at a church (or indicvidual) that does some things different from my understanding of Scripture, and condemn them. Am I the judge? Am I God? Do I have the power to dispense God's grace or to withhold it? Do I know the sincerity of the heart of the one(s) whom I presume to judge? How dare I try to stand where God alone can stand.

I am deeply troubled by attitudes within my faith tradition, the Churches of Christ. There are many presuming to stand where God alone can stand. Too many who are looking at the behaviors of others and arrogantly declaring, "Your understanding of Scripture is wrong! Your actions are displeasing to God!" We even have certain individuals and congregations publishing full-page ads in major newspapers to publicly condemn other churches. It's very much like a student pridefully shouting, "My 95 beats your 85! I'm so much smarter than you!"

Praise be to God that he, and he alone, makes me worthy of his love. I can't earn it. I can't purchase it. I can't smart my way into achieving it. I certainly can respond to his great gift with a deep, un-trumped love for him. I can respond with my obedience. I can offer my worship and my service as best as I know how. BUT, I can also honor him by showing deference to others, by being humble, by giving fellow believers (and I use that term broadly) a benefit of the doubt, acknowledging that all of us are imperfect and in need of God's grace.

I've come to believe that heaven will be much more crowded that I once believed. And I praise God for that!!!

4 comments:

TREY MORGAN said...

Amen and amen! I agree 100%

Norm Clothier said...

Test message

Norm Clothier said...

Jeff, Another great posting. I, too, am more grateful for God's grace the older I get, and I agree/believe that many, many more will be saved and with us in Heaven than what we may have been raised to believe. Keeping in mind that God made Adam in the first place (quite literally!) for companionship, I believe He will lovingly extend His grace to many souls and that He will lovingly hold us in His Glorious Presence for all of eternity - and enjoy every "moment" of it! Blessings, Norm

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