Sunday, February 15, 2015

Do We Preach a Grace That's Too Small?



Here’s our problem: we suffer from a grace too small. We’ve lined up the chairs in neat little rows and called it grace. We never noticed: it has broken free. Right now it’s running wild in the streets. We suffer from domesticated grace. We think grace is pleasant to receive. We think it’s ours to give, as if we could ladle raindrops from Niagara.

Grace isn’t safe: it’ll wreck your world. Grace assaults and grace subverts. Grace grabbed one man and knocked him off his ass. It rendered him blind and healed him three days later. Grace put him in danger time and again: shipwrecked three times or more, beaten with rods and sticks, stoned and left for dead. Grace used him like a ragdoll, overthrew an empire and saved us all—even him, the foremost of sinners.

Grace assaults us in so many ways we are dizzy and dumb from its constant battering. We seldom see it coming, and after it’s gone we rarely know what, exactly, just happened. Grace whispers and howls at the moon. Grace asks, and it’s the one telling us how it’s gonna be. It binds the strongman.

Grace sneaks into a crackhouse and holds the baby in the crib. It breaks into prison and sets the dealer free. Grace says, “Come, let’s reason together” even when the other side is incapable of true reason. Grace has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.

Grace will pick you up in Kansas and set you down in Oz. You’ll pick up crazy friends along the way and discover the boss behind the curtain is just as screwed up as you are. Grace gives you ruby red slippers stolen off a dead woman’s feet, and they show you the way home.

Grace is a strong man’s game. It’s God’s game. He invented it and plays it full out. Good luck against Him. Grace huddles with the opponent, calls the play and then runs the ball right up the middle. The enemy knows it’s coming, but grace never audibles: it executes the play—just try to stop it.

There’s only one way with grace. Surrender.

Grace is birthed in a stable and though it is homeless, it welcomes whomever celebrates its coming. Grace pulls back the veil between heaven and earth; it turns the night sky into the glory of God. Grace is where shepherds dine with Magi and humble young parents play host to perfect strangers.

Grace wanders; he does not build a house. Grace searches for welcome. Grace calls at every door, but never trespasses. He stands at the door and knocks, ready to bring a feast inside. Vagabond grace is the beggar bearing treasure. We welcome the wretch into our home; he reaches into his threadbare bag and pulls out gifts more precious than gold. His satchel holds love, joy and peace. He bestows patience and kindness. He fills the room with the fragrance of goodness, and leaves behind a map to faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Grace is the subtle hand of God before our very eyes. Grace gives thanks for a humble meal, and thousands sit and eat. Grace never condemns, yet somehow commands us to go and sin no more. Grace walks the pavement and it turns to gold.

Grace supplies our deepest need. We want a deliverer; God sends grace. We want to see power and the glory; God sends grace and truth. We want a king; God sends a Servant. Grace rules the world without title or rank. Grace has legions at his command, and never once calls for their aid.

Grace is never a tyrant—but forever a king.

Ray Hollenbach helps people and churches navigate change. He is the author of The Impossible Mentor, a deep-dive into the foundations of discipleship, and the founder of DEEPER Seminars, weekend retreats focused on discipleship in the local church. A Chicagoan, he writes about faith and culture. He currently lives in central Kentucky, which is filled with faith and culture. You can find him at Students of Jesus, TAKING THE YOKE OF DISCIPLESHIP 

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