Sunday, March 18, 2007

The "Dangerous" Teaching of Grace


The text about which you ask is one of my favorites. It is John 12:32, where Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I shall draw all unto myself."

In the ancient Greek, the phrase "all" is a rendition of pantou anthropou, and means literally "all men," or "all people." This is one of several Christian Greek Scriptural ("New Testament") texts that imply the universality of salvation. So, with some Christians, it is not very popular or beloved.

Salvation, the Scriptures make absolutely clear, does not come to us because we are "better" than others, because we work harder, or because we know more. No, all salvation has only one single Source, and that is the free gift of grace. This comes from the non-judgmental heart of God. Jesus said, "The Father judges no one."

We are saved from the lower nature, from pain, ignorance, hatred, and even death by this great and unlimited gift. Over and over, the Scriptural texts of the Christians use the Greek word charis ("grace") to refer to this enormous and immense gift. This gift originates, not with our behavior, or even our choice, but is rooted solidly, and exclusively, in the horizonless Love of God.

So, as with many deep questions, we are forced yet again into the great pleasure of examining the Love of God. First and foremost, we must ask whether this Love is limited or unlimited.

I think that you will be happy to agree with me, and with the Scriptures, that God's Love is unlimited. In fact, It is so illimitable that a "limit" on Love is a "limit" to God. This makes God a twisted, distorted limited thing; and It is no longer God, by simple definition. For, because "God is Love," this Love must be also unlimited, since a "limited God" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. God must forever be
recognized as both unlimited and illimitable.

But can it ever be fair that Jesus draws unto Himself "all men"? Yes, it can be fair if not all people are drawn at the same time. Jesus himself illustrated the situation in a parable like this:

A rich man agreed to hire people to work in a field for one hundred dollars a day. People came to him all during the day-- some came at 9 am, others at noon, others not until three, and others not til the very end of the day, at 5 pm.

When he started to pay them, the ones who had come early were delighted and excited to see the "five-o'clockers" get a hundred bucks. For, they thought, we shall certainly get a lot more, since we began the day much earlier. But when they were paid, they grumbled and complained, since they received only a hundred dollars.

Early in the day, they were thrilled, because a hundred dollars was pretty good money; but they felt ripped off now, because the employer paid them now "only" a hundred dollars! But Jesus pointed out that the man had been fair and just: He had promised a hundred dollars, and he had given a hundred dollars.

So it is with the kingdom of heaven: God gives the same grace to everyone, whether she was enlightened a thousand years ago, or just this morning. God has promised grace (including total forgiveness) to all, and He gives it freely and equally to all. Some, especially super-religious types, do not have sufficient Love in their hearts. They grumble and complain, despite the wonderful fact that they also are receiving the abundance of God's free gift-- this very same grace.

They do not want God to "pay" all people the same salary; they feel that they deserve more, as they might work harder and longer. But, as Jesus said, the money belongs to the rich man; he can give it to whomever he chooses.

Often, religious types do not just bitch and complain that the later workers are being paid the same amount; they do not want God to "pay" the later workers at all. In fact, they teach that their "god"-- worse than any devil or demon-- wants to torture in horrible agony his own misled children.

For, as noted, perfect grace is also perfect forgiveness. Many do not come to God until very "late in the day," and some have not found a relationship with Him even yet. But God has forever to educate his children, and we also have forever to learn. So, no one is really in a big hurry.

Our challenge is to cultivate a grace-reflecting Love which is like the Love of God. (In fact, all real Love is God living within and through us.) Then, we will welcome with smiles and loving hearts those who turn to God (Love) and receive of his grace, exactly the same as we have received of it.

All salvation comes from grace. This is such a "dangerous" teaching that the cult to which I used to belong, Jehovah's Witnesses, have completely removed the word "grace" from their Bible. It does not appear a single time.

Many religious people want to ignore or even deny the Power of grace. They do not believe that it is fair; but Love goes far, far beyond fairness. The disciple James wrote, "Mercy exults triumphantly over justice."

God does indeed believe in justice, but Love can go much further than
mere justice or fairness. Grace is an undeserved or unearned gift. No
one really "deserves" it. It is the overflow of the galactic Love of the
Supreme heart. And, because it is from God (Love), It misses nothing and
no one.

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