Grace in the 21st Century part 4

Christians should consider the leading character in Eugene O’ Neil’s play The Great God Brown:

“Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid of love, I who love love? Why am I afraid, I who am not afraid?”[1]

People strive so hard to please God that the existence of the gospel of grace is denied within Christians’ lives. The word grace itself has become trite and debased through misuse and overuse. In some European countries the high ecclesiastical offices are called, “Your Grace”. Sportswriters speak of Cristiano Ronaldo being the best footballer, “to ever grace a football pitch”.[2] Gordon Brown is said to be “lacking in grace”.[3] A new perfume comes out called “Grace”.[4] The word, ‘grace’ is becoming frequently used out of the context of its true meaning, reducing the depth and purity of it in its authentic state. Grace has lost its pure, raw and imaginative power.

In book of Galatians Paul states, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3: 28). He explains here that there is no one who is outside of God’s grace. There is a certain shock and scandal within the gospel of grace and it is right here at the heart of Paul’s message. Scott McKnight takes this forward when he speaks of people as cracked eikons. He argues that for too long the gospel of grace has been misunderstood as punishment avoidance. God’s grace was flourishing long before the first sin was ever committed and therefore God’s grace is not limited to  only include the saints but encompasses sinners also.[5] 

When the word grace used within the writings of Paul readers observe that he uses the Greek word charis, which had a wide range of meanings in Hellenistic Greek.[6] The early Christians borrowed this word and transformed the term until it took on the character of their belief alone. Paul took an old word and filled it with new content.[7] People such as Brennan Manning and Max Lucado are putting the question to the church, has it gone away from the real meaning of the word charis and returned to a different meaning. If the church has gone away from its root meaning then how does  Christians return to the powerful image of grace that is present throughout the word of God and throughout the history of this world.

Lucado notes the following in his book, ‘the church has become a judgmental place’.[8] Grace won’t fully be received inside the walls. An example would be, a condemned man asked for forgiveness from the church and its leaders.  It was declined, but he asked it from the man next to him on the cross and it was granted (Luke 23: 43). A radical shift needs to happen at the heart of our Christian landscape if the church is able to understand, and dispense, the very concept that saved our life. More over that this concept has the power to change and transform lives, namely grace. Van Buren wrote, ‘the church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners’.[9]  Jesus invited the sinners to his table (Mark 2:13-17); he denied no one the opportunity to join him. No matter how great their sin or how many sins they had committed He invited them to be included. When the gospel of grace transforms a persons life something radical should happen. His eyes should be open to his sinful nature and he should be able to accept his poverty and powerlessness in the eyes of his Saviour. How has the church become so distant from that? The gospel of grace proclaims and acclaims the saints – the perfect – and it denigrates the sinner and the lost.

[1] http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400091h.html 24/2/09



[2] http://www.cristianoronaldohq.com/biography.php 26/2/09

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/concoughlin/3562253/Gordon-Brown-has-lost-Britain-the-ear-of-the-White-House.html 26/2/09

[4] http://www.sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?id=P33801 26/2/09

[5] S McKnight, Embracing Grace: A Gospel For All of Us (London: SPCK, 2005) p.xi-xxi

[6] W. E Vine, Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (McLean: Macdonald Publishing, 1984) p.509

[7] J Moffat, Grace in the New Testament (New York: Ray Long & Richard R Smith Inc., 1932) p.35-70 An argument that he portrays and embraces in his writing. 

[8] M Lucado, In the Grip of God’s Grace, p.41

[9] http://thinkexist.com/quotation/a_church_is_a_hospital_for_sinners-not_a_museum/327520.html 26/2/09

[10] A McGrath, Iustita Dei: Justification Through Faith By Grace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) p.100-109

[11] http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/diabolist.html 26/2/09

[12] S McVey, Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Life (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1995) p.56-65 an overview of his work, his book takes on this concept idea further and at a more personal level.

[13] A McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd Edition (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2001) 454-455


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