Grace. We’re probably not ready to talk about this yet. Grace. There are few things more scandalous than grace rightly understood. I’m not talking about a cheap grace that looks the other way, or calls everything okay. I’m talking about the scandalous grace that is hard to believe and hard to receive and almost impossible to give. I’m talking about the kind of grace that looks sin square in the face and then scares the hell out of it. I’m talking about the kind of grace that involves a cross and costs someone so much that when it is given away… it’s scandalous. That kind of grace.
Grace teaches that God does for others what we would never considering doing for them…not them, anybody but them. If I was God I would start with those more deserving, the not-so-bad, like me. “I don’t fully deserve grace, God, but surely I deserve it more than some. More than him.” But in the Bible, God starts with terrorists (Paul) and those who abuse their power for their own pleasure (David) and owners of brothels (Rahab) and murderers (Moses) and cowards (the disciples) and pours out life-changing grace. That’s scandalous.
If we aren’t careful, grace almost seems like we are saying that sin is no big deal. But that’s just because we don’t understand grace. We think it can — at least partially — be earned and thus at least partially deserved. In fact what we really don’t comprehend is the vile nature of our own capacity for sin. We dismiss our part in the communal nature of sin, in other words if there is sin in the camp, I’ve played a part. No I didn’t molest a child. No I didn’t cover it up or look the other way, but how often did I cry out to God for our community. How often did I make a choice that was me-centered, instead of other-focused? How often did I embrace pride? How often have I asked God to slide over on the throne of my heart to make room for something else?
In the valley of not-so-happy, this week we have been reminded that we can look good… and even do good… without being good. The bad news is that I’m more messed up than I care to admit. But the good news is that God’s grace is more ridiculously lavish than I could ever imagine. The dark under-belly of our culture is the frequency and shame of sexual abuse. No one is immune. It has the power to wound hearts in such deep, deep ways. But it is this same scandalous grace that has the power to heal those wounds and make whole those hearts.
I understand the emotion of the responses pouring forth in the valley. The sin is disturbing. The plight of the powerless must be our passion. But the bottom line is that the response of those whose lives have been been redeemed by ridiculous grace, must be different. I’m praying that here in our valley God meets the scandal of sin with scandalous grace…and starts a redemptive tidal wave of cross-sized proportions.