Friday, January 11, 2008

Gratuitious Grace

Justin Holcomb is one of the best writers at the treasury of great blogwriting known as Common Grounds. Here's Holcomb's piece from this week:

Gratuitous Grace

I'm reprinting it in its entirety because it's not long.

Radical grace is hard to believe. Many of us think there must be some breaking point where God would give up on us. And if we don’t believe that, there are always a few religious people who will do their best to convince you that there is. Certainly there must be some sin or amount of sin that is just too much.

Thankfully, God solved all his problems with sin through Jesus—and it’s done. And God is the one who takes away the indictment that was against you and tears up the death warrant because Jesus took the execution you deserved.

Some may think that this is taking grace too far. But, you can’t take grace “too far.” Isn’t grace already gratuitous? The point of Jesus’ ministry and parables is to drive home how secure you are in God’s promise of gratuitous mercy.* When this is the final word we hear from God, we just might encounter the freedom that comes in the gospel. Perhaps we can breathe a sigh of relief.

My understanding of “gratuitous grace” and the security that accompanies it came when I was ten years old and I flooded our next door neighbor’s home. Our neighbors had moved and they were trying to sell their house. One day I broke in through the back door and closed all the drains in all the sinks and tubs and turned on all the faucets. And then I just sat there and watched the water flood the entire house. I let the water run while I went home for dinner and finally returned a few hours later to turn it off.

I knew what I had done was wrong and I was kind of shocked that I just wanted to do something so destructive. On top of that, once the neighbors saw the damage the next day while showing the home to prospective buyers they came to our house and asked us if we had seen anyone around their place recently. I lied to them and my parents.

Well, that messed me up. I was destroying stuff for the sake of destroying and now I’m lying blatantly to everyone. I had heard about asking God to forgive us (my dad taught me the Lord’s Prayer early), so I begged God to forgive me but was worried that he wouldn’t. Surely something so deliberate and so bad was just too much to forgive.

After a month of an uneasy conscience, I was finally found out. Another neighbor had seen me sneaking around and told on me. My father called me in from playing outside with my friends and asked me if I remembered anything important about the flooding incident. I knew something was up, but I had to stick with the lie at this point. Finally, my dad told me that I was busted. There was an overwhelming sense of shame, heavy guilt for my sins, and deep fear of the consequences. I sobbed and muttered, “Dad, I’m so sorry. I’ve been asking God to forgive me for so long for this and I don’t know if he ever will.” In a moment of parental love and great wisdom, my dad said: “If you asked God to forgive you, then you are forgiven. You deserve to be punished and this will cost lots of money to fix. But, son, you are forgiven. Go back outside and play.”

In that moment, the reality of forgiveness and gratuitous grace grasped me in a powerful way. Now, when I confess my sins, I think of this experience of absolution. My dad didn’t take grace “too far.” Rather, he noticed that I was a freaked-out neurotic mess wondering how heavy the wrath of God and discipline of my father would fall upon me. He took on the consequences of my sin and literally paid for them for me.

That experience with my dad highlighted the security of my relationship with him. I knew I was safe with him and I finally understood what he had said all along since I can remember, “I love you unconditionally.” I knew there was nothing I could do that would cause him to love me less. And I also knew that there was nothing I could do that would cause him to love me more. He loved me because I was his.

God loves you like that. It’s gratuitous grace, the only kind there is.

That'll preach.