Wednesday, May 21, 2008

GRACE OR LAW


For sometime now I have been thinking about the difficulty that law creates in our lives. I accept that as part of the process...it's what it was intended to do. That really is the foundational purpose of it and that process is to lead us to an understanding that we can't do it and we are in need of something else to happen. That something else has happened...Jesus came. What fascinates me though is that the majority of people shaped by Christianity that I run across seem to see it as something else. It ends up being what they set up in their lives (and want to set up in other peoples live) as the thing that guides them. It creates some rather interesting dynamics to say the least. Actually bizarre damaging dynamics. How is it missed that scripture tells us "Where the law increases sin abounds all the more" and then people attempt to use law to keep themselves and other people from sinning?


Another strange destructive dynamic, as if what I just described could get worse, is that this sets people up to elevate the enforcement of law over loving people and over the transforming power of grace. This dynamic has become even more problematic since grace entered the scene and it produces a different kind of Pharisees than even Jesus encountered. The state of the present visible "Church" (in recent history represented by the rise of the Religious Right...I can say this because I used to be one) might talk about grace but the message is just Law cloaked in the language of grace. The mixture is disastrous. The apostle Paul's admonition of the Galatians comes to mind. Why does it seem people are so prone to falling back into law? Or in some cases to have never left it behind in the first place? And it is always interesting how people are so much more interested in the enforcement of law when it is directed at other people, but if it happens to be them on the spot, grace is what they want for themselves.

12 comments:

Sue said...

Amen and amen.

What was striking me as I read your words - what has been my constant lament lately in one form or another - is that the people perish for lack of vision. Why would we be tempted to fall back into law after swimming in grace? Apart from the fear factor, what seems to me to be part of the problem is that many Christians haven't seen enough of something else to swim to. Which leads me further to the question: why is God so distant from so many of his children at this point in time? Perhaps it's just my own blogroll, but so many of us are battling with this (me included. I can live by faith to a certain extent for a certain time, but I need his touch to keep going, and I haven't felt that closeness for several months now).

This is where I think The Shack and books like it, with great vision, have been like a great drink of water for the Body, but when will the Drink of Water Himself manifest Himself just a leetle bit more than he seems to have been doing? Or is that asking too much?

Kent said...

Sue, all I can say is that since the fall of 05 I have not had one moment that the presence of the Spirit has been absent. And grace has trumped law and my need to attempt to work it in my life and enforce it in lives of others. I wish I could answer your question as to why you have still been moving in and out of it like you said. I don't mention my experience in a competative way at all either, I do it to say that it is possible to enter his rest and remain. All you can keep doing is to just keep responding to his invitations.

Joel Brueseke said...

I guess it's been going on for a long time, for as long as man has been around... resisting grace and seeking to establish their own ways to reconcile themselves. It's like Paul said of Israel in Romans 10 - "They being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God."

And I agree that where it gets even more perplexing and dynamic, is that Christians today have received a full revelation of what the law's purpose is, and yet they still cling to it as if "Christ in you, the hope of glory" is not enough.

It absolutely astounds me that Paul called the law "the ministry of death" and "the ministry of condemnation" and yet the law is held up so high. Paul even said "I died to the law so that I might live to God." I'm not sure how people can miss the consequences of the law so easily. Sin, death, condemnation, separation from God, etc.

I guess in a sense I get it, because like you I've been there. I just keep praying for others and I keep on sharing the good news, hoping others will catch it in one way or another.

Kent said...

Joel this that you said astounds me also because it is so clear. I guess that means you and I are so thick headed/hearted? It took me many years to see it.

"It absolutely astounds me that Paul called the law "the ministry of death" and "the ministry of condemnation" and yet the law is held up so high. Paul even said "I died to the law so that I might live to God." I'm not sure how people can miss the consequences of the law so easily. Sin, death, condemnation, separation from God, etc."

As I read this I was actually laughing a bit at how clear it has always been and all those years I couldn't see it...or at least didn't understand it. "having ears but do not hear" takes on a whole new meaning.

Sue said...

Kent - you don't need to answer my question. I don't really need it answered. I know the answer. But you know what? It is a grace that I am able to be so petulant and angry about all of this as I am being lately. A grace, because I feel comfortable enough in the Father to be able to do so. For me, being able to express those things is a major big thing because I was never able to growing up with my earth dad.

Funny, isn't it, how grace is a different thing to differnet people at different times.

Joel, thanks for mentioning Paul's "ministry of death" comment. That should be emblazoned across all our foreheads, shouldn't it :)

Kent said...

Sue, you are absolutely right...it is all transformational grace that you are learning to walk in.

Jennifer said...

I hope you don't mind if I jump into the middle of a conversation, but I relate so much to what Sue is saying.

Sue, I don't know if you've had a "dark night of the soul" before, but it's a term that is only relevant after experiencing total grace. Historically, it has been a time when God does step back but never leaves us. It sounds like what you are experiencing. God gave me three solid, uninterrupted years of living in a bubble of his grace, love and joy, but there were things I could only learn by walking through a dark valley. Like you said, He was always there, his grace was still all around, but I had some things to learn that I didn't know I was learning until several years later.

From what I've learned, and it isn't at all complete!, grace is there all the time, but there may be things in us that are still being weeded out and it's just pure pain. The stuff being weeded might not even be our own, it might be stuff others have put there and we wrestle to keep it from coming up again. God brings all things into the light and exposes them for what they are so the junk can be burned and the best can shine. I know you already know all this, but I wanted to encourage you...hopefully it does. Maybe I just needed to encourage myself. :)

Grateful Girl said...

I think we have been conditioned to believe that we need "authority" to tell us what to do and how to do it. Most people don't want to think for themselves and to do so can be very scary and unfamiliar.

To me, this is the best part of being in God's story! Finding out that you know what, I am free to do whatever and in this process (at least for me) I have drawn closer to God than ever before. I can spend time with Him and not be ashamed or afraid.

People are so used to God being a cruel father that they can't seem to get past that and so following the law is appeasing for them. Not for God... Only trouble is you cannot possibly follow the law and then the whole point of Jesus sacrificing himself becomes watered down...

Hope this makes sense at 5:43 am!

Sue said...

You've been in my head again, Jennifer.

Yes, you are so spot on, it's very encouraging actually!

Dark night of the soul. Or Year. Or whatever :)

I read Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love several months ago and that was helpful too.

Sue said...

Kent, I've replied to your email via your hotmail account as the other one is bouncing back again :)

Kent said...

I got it.

Matthew Daelon said...

"the message is just Law cloaked in the language of grace."

This is the sort of thing that really irks me the most. I hear people who pretend to believe in the Grace of God...Pretty much accepting the theory of it, but are too afraid to actually BELIEVE it. Which I understand. Grace scares me too. At times it feels like I'm falling away from God, drifting down a river with nothing to grab onto. Without my constant introspection, I don't feel safe.

Anyway, brother...Great post. Thanks for reminding us.