So I have been reading. CS Lewis, John Piper, Philip Yancey.
Here’s my thoughts.
1 John 3:16 ; This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
So what sets the church apart from anything else, what sets Christianity apart from any other ideaology? Grace. Salvation in Jesus. What is Grace, though? Is it just the casual tagline, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Well yes, it is, but there’s more to it than that. Grace is what the world lacks; Our modern world is one of self-service, pursuit of the perfect life (whether that has it’s foundation in wealth, family, body image, social alignment or some other element of modern western secular concern). So why does the Christian walk in life differ? We are called to love all, and to serve all, as Jesus served.
Some may say Christianity is, ultimately, self-service. In a sense they are right. But if the way we ensure our eternal joy is the same way by which God is glorified, and others (through this glorification) also know (and therefore glorify) God, there is no possible account against it.
On this level, Christianity is the perfect ideaology.
So what has gone wrong?
The World’s aforementioned “Gracelessness” (as Yancey calls it) is what binds the world together onto one platform; It’s all about an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. It’s all about serving ourselves (whether by enhancing our status or gratifying a desire). A thought. Just because many people who do not know Jesus do incredible things doesn’t mean they are seeking Jesus in this. But there is something about Grace that is attractive, and that makes sense (something given that you really don’t deserve). And I’m not talking feel-good generosity or charity because of conscience. It feels good, and is commended, to be generous, to be a hero. This should be painful generosity, emulating the Grace at calvary. I mean giving because of empathy is awesome. But giving because of empathy must come out of a desire to love as God loves us; to glorify God in our actions, to serve him.
I am by no means anywhere near fully grasping or implementing this idea. But it is something we should work towards. Grace only exists because someone else has paid the cost. it is only a free gift because somebody has purchased it.
Such Grace finds it’s origin in the lovingness of God; it is what should flow through us and into the world as we attempt to fulfil the calling of God; to be his image to the world. What happens, then, when we are prompted be distracted from this as our greater mission? Satan is the enemy of this Grace. If we are the paragon of Grace into a graceless world, Satan will oppose our every attempt to show it. And it is clear. How many times are we distracted from prayer? How many times do we not give to help others, because we want to serve ourselves.
This attitude is the opposite of Grace, and in allowing it we are jeopardising our mission; God’s grace is about allowing people to come to him, about empowering and calling them to do so, through the work of Grace that is our lives. If our lives are not conduits of God’s grace, our lives are falling short of their calling. And so they will. Yet failing to put every effort, every moment into conscientiously serving god’s glory through Grace-filled love for all is to not understand the nature of God, or his gift.
Glorifying God is our purpose in life. To do this we need affirm God’s values, and uphold them as right and holy. Yet we must steer away from legalism and exclusive behaviour. We have to be tolerant and loving to all, and yet to flee from sin. It seems like the ultimate dilemma of Christian Living; How do we be holy yet still invest in a world hostile to Christ?
Bring it back to Grace. Why? A few reasons.
-The origin of Grace is in God. God (with all power and knowledge) chooses to create, to allow us existence, allow us to be with Him, to know him. He knows that when created, we will turn away and reject all he stands for. Therefor in our very creation, he is giving us a chance at life with Him. When he knows the pain this will eventually bring (Finding it’s Pinnacle in the shame of the Cross), creation is an act of loving Grace.
-Grace is the only way Christianity can be different from the World; The only two positions are to be full of grace, or to be graceless; one cannot serve both worldly interests and God. We need to be a medium of grace to the world. Those who do not know God see the grace and glory of god in our actions and attitudes. this means acceptance and love.
How? This is a tricky question. I have 2 pieces of advice;
1. As Christians, Unity. I lead a youth group in Sydney. On a recent camp we had a boy converted to Christ because he saw a love that can’t be found in the world. In the unity and others-serving focus of his christian friends, he saw the Grace of God.
2. Be aware of temptation, and fight it with the desire to glorify God. This is rather general, but here’s what i mean. If you see a scenario where you are tempted to serve yourself, or to live according to the rules of this world, stop. Remember that the only difference between you and the secular world is Grace. If you have been truly impacted by Grace, and find your salvation in it, you will see that and desire to act in other ways is counter to all possible aims; to invest in your ultimate destination, to serve the Glory (and love) of a God who made this outcome possible, and to serve others by reflecting this same love and glory to all others.