On mediocre grace.
The offense and scandal of everyday grace.
If you were to engage any theologian or biblical scholar with a question regarding Christianity, you’d most likely get a lot more information than you’d ever want. The doctrines and words of the Bible have been defined and dissected, parsed, and redefined countless times, all in the effort of determining the truth of the Word of God. But what’s fascinating to me is the current explosion in doctrinal writing, debate, and discussion regarding the grace of God. Look on any popular Christian blog out there and they’re probably talking about grace, in some form or another. But whether it’s for clickbait or real, honest dialogue, grace is being talked about and written about a lot.
But in all this talk, sometimes the truth of grace can be lost. The true reality and nature of grace are clouded amidst too much dissection and discussion. This is because, quintessentially, grace isn’t a doctrine. Sure, you exegete the references to grace from Scripture and concern yourself with all the vast implications therein upon your systematic theologies — but, in truth, doing so robs grace of its power. If you want to make grace powerless, put it in a textbook, make it stay in a classroom, and have seminarians memorize the tenets of it.
Grace isn’t a doctrine. It’s not a code to abide by or a creed to be memorized and recited. It’s not an opinion or an idealistic conception contrived by men who wish to give false hope. Grace isn’t a dogmatic principle of human conjuring; it’s an eternal verity of the divine Godhead. Grace is the outpouring of the very heart of the Creator. It’s the priceless crowning jewel in the coronet of the Redeemer. It’s the framework for the Christian life, the structure and stimulus by which we’re made able to pursue God and his holiness.
Grace is offensive, and scandalous, igniting controversy among all who attempt to parse it into clean and tidy categories. It’s unruly and wild, untamed, and unconstrained. It’s unpredictable and radical, going against all intrinsic human notions of fairness, justice, and equity. And while grace avows the Father’s unabashed, unashamed forgiveness and favor of wrecks and wretches, grace is seen most purely in the modest, in the small, and the simple.
Grace is the hug of a father for the son who has ceased his running. Grace is the look of a spouse who ensures incessant love despite the other’s shortcomings. Grace is the forgiveness of a brother, unabated, unasked. Grace is the embrace of a father whose daughter clings to him for strength. Grace is the comfort of a mother for a son’s skinned knee. Grace is the paternal love and discipline for the weaned child. Yes, while grace is the most sublime of heavenly certainties, it’s seen in the most modest, mundane, and mediocre of human exchanges. True, undomesticated, unadulterated grace, says Steve Brown, “is not a doctrine to be expounded, but a hug to be experienced.”
So, consider yourself hugged.