Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Cheap Grace"

I love this quote I found from my daily emailed wisdom from Richard Rohr.

"It is finally truthful action that sets us free for God, not true words in our head, which ask very little of us in terms of actual trust or surrender.  We can believe all the doctrines of the church perfectly and never trust God or love one human being."

It would definitely be unfair to say that all churches or christians have an issue with this, but we've all met people who, unfortunately, either refuse to recognize this or simply do not understand that there's a problem.

As is noted in Brian McLaren's book, Finding Our Way Again, the problem is created when Christianity is more thought of as a system of beliefs instead of a way of life.  When we approach Christianity in this way, is taught to us in this way, and accepted as simply a system of beliefs, we become completely disconnected from the movement Jesus started and Paul brought to the gentiles.  It is honestly inconceivable to me that one could read the New Testament and not walk away with the understanding that full participation in the Jesus movement means a new way life.

I believe we can point to numerous reasons to how this became a problem for Christianity, such as the growing want for an agreed upon orthodoxy and the creeds that hence followed in the first centuries after the death of Jesus (these in themselves are not bad).  But, I would like to focus on what I believe is a grave problem for modern Christianity:  Our doctrines of grace and salvation (which are good!) have overshadowed our understanding of the Kingdom of God.  We have focused so much on the fact that grace cannot and is not earned that we have lost sight that there are still responsibilities in regard to the Kingdom of God.  I won't be able to quote this verbatim, but I remember Dallas Willard writing in The Great Omission something to the sort of, "Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning."  Or, maybe you would rather prefer here Bonhoeffer's cheap vs. costly grace; cheap grace being "grace without discipleship...".

Grace is given unconditionally, but to act on behalf of God's Kingdom and to work for it, there are conditions.  Somehow, though, we've taught and believed in "cheap grace" for so long that for so many Christians, following Jesus has become about what we believe instead of how we live.

We need to come to healthy understandings of discipleship where there is not a "this or that" mentality here. Instead, we should allow our beliefs as Christians to drastically change the way we live, and allow grace to work constantly through this process as we fail and try and try again.

Christianity is a way of life and a particular set of beliefs that shape the way we live.  My prayer is that Christians can find this healthy balance, and we can lose our tendencies to not let our beliefs affect the way we live.  Jesus followers are supposed to be different and, as I like to say, - smell different.  There's something different about a person whose life is lived everyday through the cross.  They are broken and aware of the pain of God's creation.  They are hopeful and are at peace inside because of the promises of God.  And it is clear from the way that they live, they are bleeding a raw, and unrefined love for God and all of God's people.

1 comment:

  1. Grace can be free but not cheap, considering how it was paid for.