Grace Economy

Grace Economy (Part 3)

In my last Grace Economy post, I nutshelled one aspect of grace in simple terms:

The Grace Economy.

Love, kindness, and mercy leads to excruciating sacrifice—for the enemy.

And the enemy is loved and given an invaluable gift…at no cost…because it can’t be bought.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~ Pogo, Walt Kelly

Maybe a bit simplistic, this quote was one of the first things that came to mind. Is it overly simplistic? Maybe…or maybe not. Removed from the original 1970 comic context, it’s not entirely honest in its presentation here. Truth is, when I start looking, the words fit more than I want to admit.

Back to Romans I go.

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one. Romans 3:10b-12

Pardon me while I get a little personal. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect, either. Every one of us may be just a bit too comfortable doing things our own way, doing selfish things, or even downright wrong things. Maybe the truth is sugarcoated when we feel the need to exonerate our choices, or our failures plop us right in the middle of the hog’s wallow of despair for a while. If I’m honest, saying I don’t make the grade of perfection is a bit euphemistic. (This is not the most encouraging or uplifting part of the whole thing, but I know it has great value.)

But, does it really matter?

We’ve been over some poignant verses already, including:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 HSC

If you’ve been reading along, you know this single verse is like one of those over-sized, heavy, creaking antique iron hinges—a lot of weight hangs and turns on just this. The tension sits in the fulcrum of that comma. One side of the comma, there is sin and death; the other side, there is eternal life.

The Greek word “death” is thanatos (Strong’s G2288) and translates, according to Blue Letter Bible:

1) the death of the body

     a) that separation (whether natural or violent) of the soul and the body by which the life on earth is ended

     b) with the implied idea of future misery in hell

          1) the power of death

     c) since the nether world, the abode of the dead, was conceived as being very dark, it is equivalent to the region of thickest darkness i.e. figuratively, a region enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and sin

2) metaph., the loss of that life which alone is worthy of the name,

     a) the misery of the soul arising from sin, which begins on earth but lasts and increases after the death of the body in hell

3) the miserable state of the wicked dead in hell

4) in the widest sense, death comprising all the miseries arising from sin, as well physical death as the loss of a life consecrated to God and blessed in him on earth, to be followed by wretchedness in hell

I feel bookish including Greek or Hebrew Lexicon information, but it’s like eating veggies for me. It’s good for me, and it strengthens me in surprising ways. Feel free to “talk amongst yourselves,” if it’s not as interesting or helpful to you, but I like challenging my understanding of a word, even the basic ones.

No sane person argues that the body dies. The relationship of births to deaths is a strong 1:1 correlation. The separation of soul and body and life on this earth ending adds some additional insight. When I get to the “implied idea of future misery,” I’m stopped cold. When I read the definitions, it takes a mere nanosecond to see how many variations of “misery” show up. The putrid crop of sin yields misery and death (and not just bodily death).

There is huge contrast on the other side of that comma, and I want to go there, but I can’t today. I need time and space to sit with the fruit of the crop of sin that just reeks (now there’s a fragrance reference I sort of understand under certain conditions). There’s something about knowing where the road leads that I want to deeply understand. All of us, but especially me, miss perfection by a hundred country miles.

Plain and simple. The starting point is death. Did anyone else feel the agony of that misery at some point? Did pain get your attention like it got mine?

The end of the story for us doesn’t have to be death. That’s nothing short of awesome, and I need to set my heart and mind toward that good news in light of the death I’ve written about today. It’s pretty depressing, if I don’t.

For now, I’ll wrap up with prayer thoughts:

Dear God, let me be one who does understand, who does seek you! I desperately want to turn toward you—to be useful—to do good. When circumstances tempt me to invent my own understanding or choose my own next move apart from your wisdom made available to me, let me stop (dead, as it were) in my tracks!

The other side of the comma is coming…

Thanks for reading along; I hope this wasn’t too hard to read.

~Jennifer

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In Our Weakness…

Another little something to think about that fits nicely with yesterday’s post.

[W]hen we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus.
~ Corrie ten Boom

I hope you enjoy noodling this around today. I know I’ve been trying to rest in it for myself this morning.

Blessings!

~Jennifer

Grace Economy (Part 2)

Today I hear the words running through my mind, “More grace, God. More grace!” It’s not as if I received a meager portion, and need to beg like some street urchin.

“Please, sir, I want some more.” ~ Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist.

If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, perhaps you remember the responses to the child’s request. The old, black and white version of the movie incorporated over-acted, horrified gasps at the mere thought of asking for more. I’m thankful God isn’t like that. When we get to know who he really is in the pages of the Bible, we can trust God to be loving and generous.

As I explore the economy of grace, I stumble upon this:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 NIV

If I’m honest, really gut-level honest, I can admit that the “At one time” reference in verse 3 is not as “once upon a time” as I’d like. There are days I am still “foolish, deceived and enslaved”—though I wish it weren’t so. I envy my friends’ seemingly easy lives (I find mine to be a little more on the chaotic side of the scale), their lovely houses (mine always needs some kind of repair), and their quiet cars (mine could use a new muffler). See what a brat I can be?

It’s not to the degree it once was, if you can believe that. I have grown a bit in the area of being satisfied, but I haven’t arrived yet when it comes to mastering a good portion of my heart and mind. I imagine I’m not the only one in that place. Truth is, I tend to think I was worse, and now I am better.

As if there were a measuring stick for goodness or badness.

As if my own efforts meant I could be any better in the sight of God.

No.

Verse 5: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared he saved us.” Keep reading. Nothing we did or could ever do has anything to do with this! The beginning, the cause of this grace, was kindness and love. The loving, gentle, moved heart of God brought Jesus to this world (John 3:16). With every possible reason to condemn our rebellion, he chose mercy (Titus 3:5).

Can we just sit with that for a minute?

Really.

Our world runs so diametrically opposed to this. When we behave badly, we expect consequences. And, actually, God doesn’t withhold those. But, think about this:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 NIV

“[W]hen we were still powerless.” Some versions use other words: weak, still without strength, helpless. “Christ died for the ungodly.” (5:6b) “While we were still sinners” (5:8a).

Honestly, when I think about Jesus beaten and whipped to the point of being barely recognizable as a man, the horrible pain and suffering—

It was for me, a rebel.

The hammer that pounded the nails through his hands and feet—

The rough-hewn, oily wooden handle feels awfully sickening in my hand.

The Grace Economy.

Love, kindness, and mercy leads to excruciating sacrifice—for the enemy.

And the enemy is loved and given an invaluable gift…at no cost…because it can’t be bought.

I think I need to sit with that.

~Jennifer