04
May
09

Grace in the 21st century part 3

GRACE?- WHO, WHERE, WHAT

 

‘Grace is Christianity’s best gift to the world, a spiritual nova in our midst exerting a force stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism, stronger than hate’[1] P YANCEY  

 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 

In the increasingly graceless culture, where do people find the motivation to understand and accept the concept that grace is a foundation of the Christian faith? Where do people find the motivation to dispense grace, when dispensing grace seems counterintuitive or possibly even futile?[2] This a deeply imperative question that the church in the 21st century has to address if the church is ever to take the message to its roots, conveying a gospel of grace as God intended. Brennan Manning in his book ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ argues that the church has lost its way in its understanding and dispensing of grace. Manning states, ‘The Christian community resembles a Wall Street exchange of works, wherein the elite are honoured and the ordinary ignored. Love is muted, freedom impeded and self-righteousness secured.’ [3] The institutional church has become a wonder of the healers rather than a healer of the wonders.

Manning states, is direct in his words when he says, ‘the American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice.’ [4] When Christians observe the fundamental structures of the reality of grace there are tendencies to observe the success and presence of grace by numeration of action and practice rather than by faith instead embracing grace as a business transaction. John Piper continues this sentiment when he describes the relationship between grace and the church. Piper presents his opinion; ‘In the effort to repay God, in the ordinary way we pay our creditors would nullify grace and turn it into a business transaction. If we see acts of obedience as installment payments, we make grace into a mortgage.’[5] It is important not to stray from the fundamental nature of grace; that it is free and abounding to whom ever accepts it. Christians must guard themselves from turning it into a business transaction whereby their works are taken into account in their standing with God. Misinterpretation of grace results on a misinterpretation of the gospel message and God’s intention for Christians.

What can be observed in the 21st century church landscape is a Christian spirituality that is centred on self rather than on God and His designed plan of grace and reconciliation with His world. People may dicuss about acquiring virtue as if it were a skill that can be attained like good driving or good knowledge of maths. Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians believe that through self-discipline and self-denial you can mould the perfect ‘me’. The emphasis is on what a person can achieve rather than on God’s transforming power.

 


[1] P Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997) p.30

 

[2] M Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a culture stripped of grace (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005) p.1-35 This is the question he brings forth in his book.

[3]B Manning , The Ragamuffin Gospel (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2005) p.16

[4] B Manning , The Ragamuffin Gospel, 16

[5] J Piper, The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace (Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, 1995) p.44

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