Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Grace is Free

What we experience and how we think in our everyday lives affects how we develop and understand our theology. For instance the way our justice system works greatly shapes and molds how we understand God's Justice. Someone who had a abusive father growing, or an absent father, will understand "Our Father in Heaven" a little differently than those of us who grew up with a loving father.

We have heard saying such as, "there's no such thing as a free meal", or, "nothing is really free." and in most cases this may be true and maybe be an accurate way of describing life.

But this is also how it seems we approach grace. It can't really be free, can it?

The greek word for grace is "charis"' which literally means, "unmerited favor." in other words, there is NOTHING one can do to earn grace, and there is NOTHING one can do to get it taken away. It's there.

But for some reason we don't like that idea. We may say we like it, but we don't act like we like it. And we definitely don't like this idea when it comes to others.

We are always trying to work for our grace, which caused us to think others should have to work for it too. I think Paul writes about this (among many other places) in Romans. He is writing to the church in Rome proclaiming the good news of the FREE gift of God. He urges his readers to trust that the gift is actually free, and that there is nothing for them to do in order to get it. Paul describes this idea as being "liberating" in other text because for Paul, that was part of salvation, being liberated from the law. But the Jews just couldn't grasp this radical idea... They couldn't let go of the need to have a part in their own righteousness.

Your thoughts...?


JustinGaynor said...

Should we be allowing the systems of justice we've seen in the world....the ones that have been condemned by God inform our view of God's justice? Or should it be the other way around? Shaping our ideas of justice around what we see in Jesus, the perfect revelation of God's character...Does that justice supersede any assumptions we may have drawn from the Hebrew scriptures? New covenant vs old covenant.

Do you think it is possible to stop thinking about Grace as something that is received through transaction? Free vs Cost...that is in effect a throwback from debates had in the 1500's...not so much what Paul was talking about...
(granted I hold to more of a Christus Victor view of atonement)

If we are working for to earn OUR grace, have we judged ourselves in thinking we are without it. If we are working toward His glory are we not investing grace in others? What does that look like? Does it include correction? direction? encouragement?

If you are steadfast for your desire for grace, will it be denied to you forever? Can it seem that way? What happens when we turn our back? Is it possible to fall from grace?

I think there is a bit of a misreading of Paul in your last paragraph. When he says 'Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.'
He is not saying they worked for grace instead of recognizing it was free. He is saying that they made up their own set of doctrines to follow with a focus that missed the mark instead of learning what he had been teaching them all along (see the sermon on the mount). It was about the yolk taken up. Not exchanging the important matters of working toward justice, mercy and faithfulness...rather they missed the whole point instead making it about maintaining outward covenental 'works': circumcision, festivals, temple, violently enforced sabbath...all these became dead idols because they paid no attention to what these things stood for, what they taught...God's spirit was not in them the way they were passing them on.

Jesus renewed the covenant, which in effect radically made it what it was supposed to be. He has put to rights what man has messed up.

That's good news! Especially for those who suffer under the old regime which produces nothing but iniquity.

Dan said...

Grace is freely given, however it is up to us to have the repentant posture required to accept this gift. It is not something to work for or earn, it requires only our participation in the relationship. "For it is by grace you are saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works so that no one can boast."

1 John:
"1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

Is "walking in the light" following some kind of standard of action for the Christian walk? Can it be seen as merely trying to walk towards Jesus, like struggling in a dark night to reach a far-off streetlight? If you do not turn around and walk away from it, you are constantly walking in the light that is shining, though there may be cracks in the road, distractions that turn your head to the side on occasion, or barriers you must climb over to continue your walk, you are still striving to reach the light.

Jkub said...

Dan, thanks for reading and posting...

I would agree of course that grace is freely given, but i don't know that I would say you have go repent to RECEIVE grace. I think repentance comes after one realizes they already have it. There is no conditions...it's always there wheth you know it or not, whether you accept it or not.

Having said that... It is hard to accept that grace finds us exactly where we are. Some would even say it takes faith to accept that. "where there is sin, grace abounds all the more."

And how do we know we have come from darkness to lighht? Because we love! Those who say they love God but do not love their brother are lyers, and do not know God.

Grace isn't something we get.... It's something we come to realize we have and then choose to live in it.

And justin, not sure where we are disagreeing with the reading... Maybe saying the same thing in different ways... I don't know... Because I don't disagree with what you wrote.

JustinGaynor said...

DAAAAANNNN!!! I miss you bro! You coming back to FL soon?

JKub, I would say the fruit of faithfulness and repentance is forgiveness, whose manifestation is the revelation of grace.

Grace experienced, is grace received.

Where there is sin grace abounds all the more...so sound we presume grace and sin all the more? May it never be!!!