(this is part 3 of a series called Surmising Scandalous Grace... reading part 1 and 2 might be helpful...)
Last Sunday as I was preaching on this idea of scandalous grace I had two Scripture readings. The first was well known words from Ephesians 2: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” These verses are inspirational words; Paul’s most concise précis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can be reconnected with God not by our own religiosity, karma balance or good works. It is God’s unmerited favour, grace, that changes who we are.
My other reading was Jesus most imaginative parable that has become known as The Prodigal Son. In this story a son takes his chunk of his father’s inheritance and goes and blows it on “wild living.” Having wasted it all he found himself eating with the pigs he was looking after, the last place a Jewish boy would want to be, and thinks that his dad might give him a job as one of his servants. Heading home he must have wondered how his father would react; he deserved a darn good thrashing. When he saw his father running down the road towards him he must have expected the worst and yet his dad throws his arms around him and gives him a party. This is not as it should be. It is scandalous. That’s what his brother thinks who has been loyal and faithful to his father down the Prodigal’s wasted years.
Ephesians is a concise theological explanation of grace. Jesus story of the Prodigal Son from Luke chapter 15 is a wonderful story of grace. The entire Bible is obsessed grace from Genesis through Revelation. What I believe to be a scandal is that we have trapped grace in these readings. We have reduced it to a doctrine; perhaps the most important doctrine in the history of Protestant Christianity but doctrine all the same. We have reduced it to a story, even if the most magnificent story. As I pastor of a Church I am amazed that, although almost the entire congregation could define and even preach on grace, very few see it vibrantly alive in their everyday lives.
Grace is much more than a ticket into a relationship with God, important and all as that is. Grace is the key into the kingdom but also the energy of the Kingdom. It is grace that fires a different way to live; it is not a statement but a force. Grace is also the new life lived. We treat everyone in our lives the way God has treated us by his grace. Grace is not a fictitious story but the story we write in lives lived in this radical way. Every relationship and every decision is under the authority of God’s grace.
(part 4 will look at Grace as a living breathing life force...)