What’s Grace Got To Do With It?
Everything; grace has everything to do with it. New City churches ought to be places where grace just drips from the amplifiers, from the offering baskets, from the pulpit, from the folding chairs or whatever we sit on. How can there be reconciliation between people without grace working in our hearts to open us up to forgiveness, to deliver us from fear and shame, from giving us confidence before God? To understand grace I think one has to ask themselves what kind of a Christian they are or how they understand the Gospel. I hesitate to ask what “level” someone is in their understanding because the whole idea of grace delivers us from measurements of ourselves against ourselves or others. Grace starts with ground zero, and in a sense never elevates us above that. We are always on the ground before God, always zero, always and absolutely in need of his mercy. We just have to get that idea because without it we are not “grounded” but trying to move up and achieve, for God, for ourselves, over and against others. Without an understanding of grace we can’t afford to be at ground zero, we can’t afford for the sake of our own ego or self esteem to be left in such a place. It is too painful and we feel like we are being stepped on. We have to fight for ourselves, for our own validation. We have to listen to poems and essays and music that tell us we are worth something, to believe in ourselves, that there is a King in us. At the same time we just can’t shake the shame of our failures, and that they happen over and over again. This is the concept of indwelling sin, or total depravity, or being really messed up. If your theology has no grace in it then you have to become a positivist or else you should go blow your brains out, because the comfort level of living with yourself is just too much to bear. So, either deny the sinful reality, lie to yourself about how much better you are getting, or admit that there is no good reason for God to like you but that he does. No, I mean it, he really, really does like you. He pursues you, touches the disease of your leprosy, kisses you, dies for you, washes you, adopts you, holds on to you, fights for you, and never ever lets you go. But he doesn’t love phonies, liars, pretenders in their pretense. He demands the naked truth, that I am much worse that I ever want to admit. Yeah, but in that admission I find this out, he loves more than I could ever hope or imagine. This is grace, and it is a power from God and it is a truth from God that also has power. Wow, I can be used. I am included. God ain’t going nowhere. This truth allows us to accept ourselves and other nasty broken people, beyond our normal ability to accept them or include them in our lives. It enables us to keep forgiving ourselves and others. It is not a credit card for sin, it is not a line of credit to do evil because we think it will get us more grace. Real grace crushes the heart so it becomes desperate for more of Jesus, and has no comfort with a life still lived in sin. But real grace will have nothing to do with legalism or depending on rules to help us be better Christians. This one of the things that makes New City churches cool, it is a place of honesty, of acceptance, or welcome for broken people, for preachers who are themselves not only slightly disheveled but almost shoveled over. Reconciliation is possible, mercy is possible from the community of the saints, justice can be sought for in hope because grace is real. Grace happens! Hallelujah!