Monday, June 16, 2008

Grace is hard :)

A friend recently sent an email in which she was talking about her dad, and she compared me to him. She said, "You are sort of like him in his way of thinking. You know what I mean. You are simple in a lot of ways too." I have to agree that a lot of how I live my life is pretty darn simple! And I like that! But then in the next sentence my friend called me on something not-so-good that can be also very true of me. She said, "Unless we're talking technology!"

I remember a few years ago she was looking for a new computer and asked me what she should look for. I sent her an email that probably could have taken almost two full pages to print out, going into great detail about how much RAM she needed, hard drive size, processor, DVD-RW, sound card, etc, etc.

Her response to me said it all: "Arrrrggghhhh! I'm soooo confused! Never talk to a computer geek about what computer to buy! ha ha. I have too much info now. I just wanted to be told, 'Go get brand X.' Now I have to think and compare!"

In some ways I'm not so simple, I guess!

What's funny is that when I first read the email that I mentioned above, I thought my friend had written, "Unless we're talking theology!" I have to admit that I agreed even more with that than with the idea that I'm not too simple when it comes to technology. I know I've spent hours and hours writing emails, trying to explain my thoughts on various issues of theology, and the response has been largely the same!

But there's a reason for all my lack of simplicity.

Let me explain by first saying that once upon a time, I went to church and I listened to what was taught and I didn't really question a whole lot of what I was taught. A foundation and a building was being built in my life based upon my own efforts to live the Christian life and to get out there and be a great man of God. Then came a time when I began discovering other things in the Bible - aspects of grace and New Covenant life that simply did not line up with what I had previously been taught. Long story short, the foundation and building that had previously been built went through a process of being "deconstructed," and of course the process of reconstruction has been going on for several years now, built upon a foundation of grace.

Some of the new things I was learning were quite difficult to grasp at first - even scary - since they went against the grain of how I had previously understood the Christian life. But after some time, and after this grace foundation had been laid and I had become more and more established on it, I began to really learn so much more and I began to really, truly grow in Christ, and I naturally wanted to share it with everyone.

However, I ran into a lot of frustration as I began to share the wonderful grace of God with my friends and fellow church members. They were still building upon the other performance based foundation that I had been on, and it was so very hard to get them to see where I was coming from, even when I shared straight from the scriptures!

And so the way in which I went about sharing the simple gospel of grace with other people evolved into a matter of first trying to "deconstruct" the old building and foundation - the notion of the performance-based Christian life - and then to try to lay the foundation of grace and try to help then "reconstruct" their lives based upon this new foundation.

That's not so simple. :)

An example of my frustration would be when I was in a small group setting, and the group would be discussing a passage of scripture or a certain aspect of the Christian life. When I would speak up and simply give my view on the matter, I would get a lot of blank faces or even some opposition, and I would find myself in the position of trying to explain myself by working backwards from where they were coming from (since I knew exactly where they were coming from, having been there myself), and essentially trying to "deconstruct" the thought processes and getting to a foundation of grace and then trying to "reconstruct" my arguments based upon that foundation. Does that make sense? (By the way, I don't mean to sound haughty by making it seem as if I have all the right answers and nobody else does! I'm just saying that having come into a different, life-altering, life-freeing view that I believe is biblically based, and then going out and trying to share it, has been frustrating at times).

And quite honestly, this is still where I find myself today. I try to share the gospel of peace with my brothers and sisters in Christ who have perhaps built their Christian lives upon a form of Galatianism (beginning with grace, but then moving over into the "works" department to try to maintain their salvation or please God), and it's like trying to communicate with a brick wall. I sometimes don't know if I should attempt to chip away at the brick wall or just to share the good news and accept the fact that I'm a heretic. :)

Perhaps each case is different. If I'm with people who I see often, I can take more time to deconstruct and reconstruct. I realize fully that my own process was (and still is) just that - a process. And I realize that the whole concept of grace and unconditional love is not an easy concept for the fleshly mind to accept! To borrow from a story I heard from Bill Gillham (Lifetime Guarantee) a while ago (using my own words, because I can't remember the exact words he used), one time somebody essentially 'accused' him of teaching "that easy grace stuff." Gillham's reply was that grace is by no means easy. It goes against the religious preeminence of the flesh.

Grace is hard! Or should I say, "grace is hard to teach." Or perhaps better said, "grace is hard for the religious mind to understand and accept, so it takes a lot of work, time and patience for both the teacher and the one who is learning."

Any thoughts?


  1. I'm at the point where I don't really feel the need to try to convince anyone of the goodness of grace. When they're ready, I believe they'll come looking for it (and with an open mind, I might add). Now I think of it in terms of trying not to hatch someone else's egg for them. When the spirit's ready, they'll come looking for truth, and they'll know it when they see it; it won't take convincing.

    A verse that flashed through my mind, upon reading:
    "grace is hard for the religious mind to understand and accept..."
    was Matt. 19:24, saying it's easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God"
    I know the context was about one who could boast of having followed all the commands, well except for that one about putting God first. Much like people do with religion, he could not seem to put God above his wealth (system of security much like religion is), and well, that was the clincher.

  2. Free Spirit,

    It really humbles me in a good way to be reminded that it's not up to me, but rather it must be the work of the Spirit in other people's lives, that leads them into grace. We've often discussed this on this blog and on other blogs, so this is a great reminder!

    As for grace being hard for the religious mind to accept, I had been thinking of some specific scenarios that I've been in that I haven't always been quite sure how to handle and perhaps I'll blog about it and see if anyone has any feedback.

  3. In my case (at least), no one really 'taught' me grace. Instead, I would say, God answered my prayer by showing me the truth of His grace and love. I remember crying in my minivan while driving to work asking God, why am I not experiencing any joy in my life though I was doing all kind of religious activities. At that time, I didn't even believe God heard my prayers. I was praying as though I was just releasing my own frustrations into the air.
    But He heard it, not only He heard it He answered it in a beautiful way by showing/directing me to the right places.
    Joel, I truly believe in "seek, you shall find". Seeking is the key. Those who seek will find the right God, no matter whether they live in a jungle or in Newyork city.
    Yes, it is hard to teach Grace. But God can reveal it to us in extremely simple but unpredictable ways.
    Thats my prayer today for my loved ones who hasn't tasted this great truth yet. Father, open their heart, give them a desire to seek, give them the discontentment with their religion, stir up their mind and when they are ready reveal it to them. I will only stay back and rejoice!

  4. Yep indeed, Bino, I think that grace must be revealed to us, and we can't force anyone to understand it. I really do believe in ask, seek, knock, just as you do.

    All of that said, I kind of alluded to a frustration in my post that I think is at least somewhat similar to something the Apostle Paul experienced. The Galatians had talked the grace talk, and had probably lived it to an extent, but then they turned back to the law and rules and regulations. Paul had some choice words for them and he wasn't exactly gentle with them in his admonishment to return to grace alone.

    Although my experience with church people today isn't exactly the same as Paul's, I do think that today we all have the same Bibles that reveal the same pure message of grace, and I do think that there may be cases in which we act with more zeal and passion in response to those who are of a more legalistic mindset, especially when they are keeping others from walking in the freedom for which Christ has set us free.

    For me, the circumstances that I mentioned in the post that followed this one represented such a case. I was downright perturbed! And yet, I understood where they were coming from, even though I didn't agree with them at all. And in the end I know that if they seek, they will find. I can't force anything upon them. My heart can be passionate but must also be patient and kind!