The kingdom of grace and the world of ungrace – part 1
I am not really interested in exploring whether or not it was the right thing for David Garrett to resign. In fact I am not really interested in the case per se except that it highlights the way the world works. In our world, we are judged for who we are and what we do. If we treat people nicely, they generally treat us nicely in return. If we treat people in a way that metaphorically burns bridges, we can lose friendships and alienate ourselves from others. If we do something stupid, that gives people the right to condemn us, and based on the magnitude of the folly, the right to dismiss us completely. This is the world of ungrace. And in a world of ungrace, people are very eager to put the boot in when someone is caught in wrongdoing.
Because we live in a world of ungrace we try to hide the real ‘us’ from those we come into contact with. We live in fear that our acquaintances and those closest to us might discover some of our own ‘skeletons’ and perhaps wipe their hands of us. We all know in the depths of our soul that if people could see the real us, they would find fault with much they saw. Indeed few of us have more than one person with whom we can be entirely honest about our true self. These true friends who love us in spite of our faults and flaws are rare and precious jewels, and their friendship mirrors the kind of friendship that God extends to people.
We cannot hide the real us from God. One of the occupational advantages of being God is omniscience. That means God sees the real us – our actions, our words, and scarily enough, the thoughts and motivations of our innermost self. He looks at each one of us warts and all, and still offers his love to us. This is an incredible truth. He sees our skeletons; the selfishness of our heart, the malice towards others, the deceit, and yes, even the stupid things we have done in our past, yet he still offers his friendship to us no strings attached.
What makes this offer even more gob-smacking, is that God’s grace to us comes at a great cost. For God to be just, he cannot allow the guilty to go unpunished. All of our obvious wrongdoings, and our less obvious closet skeletons must be paid for. They represent a relational block between us and God. This block cannot just be ignored. A husband who has cheated on his wife cannot just say to her ‘Let’s forget this ever happened’. But God has demonstrated great love for us, by finding a way to remove the block so that our wrongdoing before him and injustice towards others can be dealt with. God’s innocent son Jesus agreed to take the punishment that our wrongdoing deserved in order that God might look upon us as innocent. Jesus was nailed to a cross and forsaken by God as we deserved to be, in order that we who were once enemies of God might be made friends. The Bible poetically puts it this way; “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.” Those who trust in Jesus are treated as if they had never done anything wrong. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of their friendship with God.
This is a most beautiful truth. God is a God of free grace. He does not require us to act in a certain way to receive his love. In him the world order of tit-for-tat ‘ungrace’ is slowly being dismantled. With Jesus a kingdom of grace broke into this world and the free offer of salvation from God’s just wrath has been offered through faith in him. His kingdom will gather in people from every tribe, every nation, and every language. And when he returns, we will celebrate God’s grace to us in a world removed of all sorrow and injustice.