You’ve heard this: Give me back your man-card, usually after a statement like Twilight wasn’t that bad or I need a fork for these hot wings or Nothing less than 500 thread count sheets.
In hundreds of conversations with veteran pastors, new seminarians, drug addicts, ex-cons, single moms, high school drop-outs, and lonely outcasts: It’s easy to tell when someone has given away all their grace-cards.
It’s the slightly clenched inflection in their voice.
The head shaking back and forth with too much relish.
The blame, the shiny perfect version of themselves, the mocking of the other person’s voice.
The re-telling of so-called horror stories: And so he was like — And she goes — And can you believe that?
The constant demonizing, generalizing, categorizing, contempt-disguised-as-pity, the seething disgust and bitterness.
Never an insight into another’s point of view, never an empathy from another’s perspective, never even a half-sincere attempt at trying to understand upbringing, culture, wounds, and influences.
Or it’s just as simple as never mentioning the word grace.
I imagine the angels in heaven, right before Jesus was about to save the world by first heading to the earth as a baby in a manger, and all them telling him, “Don’t do this. Not for these people. They’ll ignore you, despise you, betray you, torture you, and kill you. You’ll come out of the grave and they still won’t believe you. Don’t do this, Jesus. Not for them.”
And Jesus telling the angels: “Give me back your grace-cards. Maybe you’ll get them back after you stop some car accidents or draw my face in more toast.”
Where is the grace?
I recognize the futility of what I’m doing here.
When pastors and bloggers and Christian authors criticize other pastors and bloggers and Christian authors that they lack grace (like I’m doing now), they undercut their very own accusation by their own lack of grace.
When someone accuses someone else of twisting the gospel, they forget it’s that very gospel of grace that will save them to the real gospel.
Grace is so freaking big that it makes us uncomfortable. It should make us look antinomian. Not for the sake of shock or sentimentalism, but because Jesus proclaimed no less. He did not die for a grace-in-most-cases. It was not for grace just-in-case. He died for the total absolute pulverizing of all our hideous flailing stupidity: that even the most messed up of us can never be found too late in Him.
I can see it in your eyes: When you speak of people with no hope, no chance, too far gone. It’s a loveless, graceless heart. I’m guilty of it too. But I strive to love you, pray for you, hope that grace will overwhelm you. I still believe even the most ungracious soul can be rocked in an instant by His incomparable goodness.
I know: evil exists and there should be a wisdom in how we approach certain people. But when we cannot go beyond our comfort level, we diminish the sovereignty of God. You imply that God can only change those people, but not this person. You demean His power and desecrate His purpose. When you say. “I’ll leave that guy to God,” what you really mean is, I’m too lazy to roll up my sleeves like Jesus did.
Like Jesus did. With grace.
4 thoughts on “Getting Back The Grace-Card”
I love, love love these lines: He did not die for a grace-in-most-cases. It was not for grace just-in-case. He died for the total absolute pulverizing of all our hideous flailing stupidity: that even the most messed up of us can never be found too late in Him.
thank you for the reminder
that was excellent writing!
“or draw my face in more toast” LOL!!!
I had to look up the term “antinomian,” and I’m not at all sure that’s what Jesus is looking for us to appear as. He did hang out with tax collectors and loose people, but none of them were going to continue in their former sinful lifestyle after connecting with Him. You could say the closest He got to that label was eating with Pharisees!!
Grace is such a tough concept to understand, let alone to live out. My dad’s counseling ministry centers on grabbing ahold of grace and then using it to live like Christ.
First we have to accept it for ourselves. This is really humiliating. We don’t like to admit that there is nothing in our nature that makes us inherently lovable. But that’s the point we have to come to in order to accept Jesus’ grace in our own lives.
Then there’s all those other people. Only people who recognize their own deep seated sin while accepting the infinite value they have in Christ can turn around and care for others flaws and all.
Both of these things are complicated by our desire to hold on to bitterness against ourselves and others. We hate ourselves for betraying our trust in our own goodness, and we hate others for not respecting our infinite value. Grace is the cure for this but, as you point out, a very uncomfortable one.
Compounding this is the whole issue of the other person’s repentance (or not). We are commanded to forgive others if we want God to forgive us. But what do we do with people who won’t ask our pardon? This is something else that comes up regularly in my dad’s training. Basically, he says it’s kind of like learning to be around a mafia guy who won’t give up his gun. If it is the kind of relationship that God says you need to work on regardless of the other’s choices, you mentally put on your bullet proof vest, the armor of God, consciously remind yourself of God’s love for you and the other person no matter what, and choose to act as Jesus’ emissary in the other person’s life.