Friday, May 27, 2005

Grace, Grace, God's Grace

When I prepared to go in front of the Board, I was asked an interesting question. I was asked to look out the window and find a person. Then the interviewer said “Tell me about that person, theologically.” I thought for a moment and I said, “This is a beloved child of God, made in the image of God. That image is sullied by sin and the cares of this world, but God still sees it and we should honor it. God has surrounded that person by His prevenient grace so that she hopefully will eventually know of that grace personally and crave to live a life modeled after Christ. It’s our job to help her experience that grace and find her way to Christ.” And I really do believe this.

I found out later there are two different types of answers – mine and the alternate answer “I see a sinner in desperate need of the redemptive power found in the blood of Christ. She needs to have Jesus shared with her and accept Jesus into her heart.”

It really is two different views – intertwined sometimes, and not really distinct from each other, but different and equally valid. One is a doctrine of total depravity and the other is the doctrine of Imago Dei. Both affirm the centrality of Christ, both affirm discipleship and modeling our lives after Christ. To me this has been a intellectual distinction, as I begin to explore this world theologically. (OK, the process has taken more than 20 years, maybe it’s “I continue to explore this world theologically.”)

I was sitting in a large cafeteria recently (within the last month) with a group of other pastors from my denomination. We were a rather quiet group. Suddenly the noise level went up several decibels – we were invaded by a youth group. The kids were exuberant – laughing, joking around, loud, enthusiastic, colorful and joyful. I looked at them and rejoiced at the work of God in their lives. Their mood was contagious. One group broke out in song spontaneously – some Michael W. Smith praise chorus. I could see them as beloved children of God, surrounded by a great cloud of witness, surrounded by God’s grace. I smiled to myself and hummed along.

I turned back to my group and the other three at my table had such sad expressions on their faces. One said, “Look at all those lost souls. It makes my heart heavy.” This comment brought me up short. Yes, I could understand that viewpoint, but it certainly was not the first thing I thought of. It does make my heart heavy sometimes when I think about children, especially my children drifting off the path, slipping down the wrong road, turning to the dark side. Yet my heart was heavier when I realized that these pastors were not rejoicing in the beauty of these children and not rejoicing in the work that God had already performed in their lives.

Maybe that is why we have such struggle with people who live lives that are different than ours. Why some can embrace Gay and Lesbian couples into their churches and some cannot. Why some can embrace women clergy and some cannot. It’s about our personal soteriology and how we view grace – and if we really believe if God’s grace is sufficient.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

Found at Hymnsite.

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