Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Living Grace In the Tangledness of Life

I’ve heard religion taught and grace preached.

But for many years the concepts of grace were empty and unable to help me understand how to live grace, in the all tangledness of life.

Religion was a list of rules. It was black or white. Right or wrong. Them and us.

And grace, well, it didn't seem like a gift when the words preached built fences to keep some people in and others out.
I thought Jesus was holding committee meetings in heaven about who had the correct doctrine.

And there must be holy sub-committees who labored over deep issues such as music, how people should dress, programs, political association and other social issues of the day.

There were people, not so different from myself, messed up, carrying decades of burdens, trying to find the grace offered by Jesus, but who couldn't get past walls which held back hope.

There was always a lot of talk of grace, but it felt like barbed wire wrapped around my soul.

When grace is taught only as a religious concept, it shows up in our dealings and interactions with others.

Jesus experienced this as He journeyed toward the cross. 

His own people ––well they wanted their Messiah to come, but when He showed up they didn't like the way Grace looked. 

He didn't fit inside their neatly established boxes.   

The Torah (the Law) pointed to the coming Messiah. The oral law was added, and strangely enough is still referred to as, "building a fence around the law."  

By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, "the fence" included 248 extra commandments and 365 additional prohibitions. 

The oral law was intended to protect the Written Law. 

As a former rancher, I well know the value of a fence and how it's expressed purpose is to protect by restricting access.

What was intended to protect, became a stumbling block.

Jesus told the leaders of that day,  "You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help." Luke 11:46

Those people wanted to kill Jesus, because they felt they were the final authority on who had access to God.  

He broke their rules. He didn't play within the boundaries of  who, what, when, where and how their Messiah was suppose to do things.

Despite the opinions of those leaders, the religious elite, the ones who had the keys to the church building, Jesus was scandalous in His love for others. 

He was known to hang out with prostitutes, thieves, the passed-over, used up, the shunned, and the lowest-of -the-low in that society.  

Because Good News is mostly received by those who are used to bad news.

Jesus lived as an equal-opportunity-grace-extender and the religious men with their protective fences of rules, well they wanted to kill Him for it. In fact they did kill Him and that is how Grace became our Gift.

Jesus came knowing He would be rejected by the very ones He came to save. 

It was true then and is still true today, men and women like to add incredible yokes of bondage and spiritual slavery to people. Perhaps, without meaning to, we can make claims to be the absolute authority of who should have access and who shouldn't. All while we miss the heart of those looking for Jesus, because we miss the very heart of Jesus Himself.

Not everyone has an open heart for His wild grace.

I came to my own crisis of faith. 

The Jesus I read about, the One I wanted to live for, wasn't the One I saw people in church living. In fact it was all in direct conflict with each other. 

One day I sat in a heap and told God and my husband, ".......if  religion and rules and arguments about doctrine is all Jesus is about, then I'm done with it."

It was  lifeless and above all loveless to me. 

Crazy thing.... the very same day I walked away from religion, Jesus showed up. 

Grace isn’t found within human lines. 

Grace is found in the fullness and abundance of Christ. 

Grace is a Person. 

Grace is what sets us apart from all other religion.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. 
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 
not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 
Ephesians 2: 8-9

Grace is simple in the fact that it is found in Christ alone. 

That Savior, the One who created the entire universe, a macrocosm which cannot contain Him ––He is wild, complex and sets His own boundaries, which are wide and spacious. 

His grace is greater that all our sin.

Jesus is supreme and He is the One who establishes how far the oceans can go, the rising and setting of the sun. 

He had a way of breaking people’s rules and turning over tables. 

Jesus was and is famous for welcoming God-seekers that look more like castaways.

He summons the weary and wrecked. The restless and the prodigal. 

He didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. 

God’s law is to be INTERNALIZED. It isn't a set of external things we do or rules we keep. It changes us from the inside out ––truly it's upside down, to how rules and religion work.

We who love God, obey Him. Not out of coercion or boundaries set, but because of the great grace.

He doesn't tell us to get cleaned up and then come to Grace, He invites us to come and be changed by grace.

What I know is that grace, His grace, has brought me salvation and much more. 

Because of who Jesus is, the same grace that saves us, settles over all of our messy, cracked places and continues to mark and change us. Grace is a very multi-faceted thing. It is the Gift as well as the Restorer, Game Changer, Forgiver, Peace Maker, Rescuer, Giver of all good things.

It changes stone hearts into hearts of flesh.

The more time we spend with Grace the more we begin to look and live like grace.

When we are living grace, it brings wild freedom and reckless passion. 

Grace gives us eyes to see things which graceless eyes cannot see. 

Such as people who haven't got set free from their chains yet.

I love our church and all the messy people in it. Together we are growing, pressing in, allowing more Grace into the places that still need,,,, more grace.

The authenticity of our faith will always, always, be marked by deeply warm grace.

That is how we live this tangled messy life.

Living grace, not just talking about it.

Let us live the kind of grace which invites all people to cross over the fence, to see what Jesus is really all about.


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© Rhonda Quaney