Sunday, February 17, 2013

Christian Theology in a Thumbnail: Grace (18)



          Grace is the Christian answer to the question of everything.  Why is there something rather than nothing?  Where does life come from?  What is life about?  And where is it going?  What does it all mean?  Why should we care?
     
     For grace is finally the character of the God we worship.  All else than God is gift.  The tune of the universe is gratitude.

          All of this is undeserved, of course.  No one or nothing earned or deserves to be here. 

          Even when humans inexplicably turn ingrate and seek to seize the gift of life for ourselves, wreak havoc on God’s good creation, demean and destroy each other, and lose ourselves in self-seeking superiority and glorification, God remains gracious in seeking to reclaim and restore us from the hell into which we have fallen and visited upon others and the creation.

          This fundamental ingratitude renders us idolaters, basically worshipers of ourselves and the works of our hands.  This idolatry is what C.S. Lewis calls “the sweet poison of the false infinite.”  Divine grace is the antidote to this sweet poison.

          Grace first de-centers us from the center of our lives, and then re-centers us on the grace of God as made known in Jesus Christ.  Henceforth we live not for ourselves but for him.  And living for Christ, we live for all others and the world.

          Grace as forgiveness reestablishes our relation to God.  It also enables us to reintegrate ourselves in genuine self-understanding and delight in the service of God.  Forgiveness repairs and rebuilds broken relationships, from the personal to the systemic.  Grace creates in the beginning, re-creates as forgiveness after the fall, and completes creation in the end.

          Amid the rubble of life as we experience it, its hurts, dashed hopes, unfathomable tragedies, unimaginable betrayals, soul-numbing frustrations and defeats, and unsatisfying achievement and awards, grace offers us hope that all this is not the final word about life and God.  Rather grace generates a hope that enables us to hold on and even resist the encroachments of despair and psychic paralysis life’s enigmatic rough edges and abysses seduce us toward.  Grace strengthens us to cry out in the face of all this a great “Nevertheless” - God and God’s good purposes for us and for creation will prevail!

-We experience grace as an ineradicable longing, an indefinable lack that keeps us open to something “other.”

-We experience grace as new freedom to respond to God and others in openness and compassion. 

-We experience grace as God’s great “but now” that restores us the privilege and potential of our creation in God’s image and call to be his royal representatives in and for the world.

-We experience grace as glimpses and glimmers, signposts, of God’s order in acts of justice, reconciliation, and care for creation.

-We experience grace as the embrace of “the Prodigal Father” (Luke 15) that assures us that come what may, he will always be with us and for us.    

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