The Scandal of God’s Grace
A blog post I read awhile ago on Addie Zierman’s blog rings through my ears every now and again. In her beautiful and poetic writing style, Addie captures the scandalous nature of God’s grace. She writes:
“This is the only place in your whole world where there are no expectations; this is the one person you cannot disappoint. There is no test. God is not waiting for you to do some certain thing or to say some particular combination of words to give you Good Things.”
God’s grace is limitless—there is no end to His love for us and no time in our lives when we are required to earn it. We are infinitely loved exactly as we are—with all of our baggage, bad attitudes, shameful pasts, and every other part of us that the world might deem to be unworthy of love or forgiveness.
We are accepted by God, we are loved by God, and there is nothing we can do in this life to make that untrue.
More often than not, I struggle deeply with this idea. My human nature rebels against the grace of God because it seems too marvelous, too beautiful to be true. And what’s more, I think most people struggle with this, because whenever I talk about that with someone—whenever I say, “God accepts us, God loves, we are cherished by God more deeply than we could possibly imagine exactly as we are” the response I hear is always one of conditions: “Yes but God doesn’t want us to stay that way. True repentance means turning away from sin.” Or they say, “Yes but, remember, God is holy, and he cannot tolerate sin.”
I listened to a sermon once that talked about that incredible story of the pharisees and the adulterous woman in John 8. If you don’t know the story, it’s basically about how the pharisees are trying to trap Jesus into drawing a line in the sand when it comes to sin and stoning a woman for committing adultery. But Jesus turns the tables on them, and tells them that only a sinless person has the right to condemn her. He defends her in such a beautiful way, a way that would have been unprecedented at the time for a man to treat a woman. It’s a lovely story.
And here’s the part that is relevant to grace and our inability to come to terms with the enormity of it. During the sermon, the pastor talked about how that story was very nearly omitted from John’s gospel. It was too scandalous, too shocking, too incredible to imagine that the Messiah would respond in the way that he did, by offering her grace, by saing “Neither do I condemn you”. Early Christians thought it might communicate the wrong kind of message to put in print that Jesus would do such a thing.
They couldn’t conceive of a grace so exhaustive that it would rise to the defense of not only a woman, but an adulteress.
Yet that is exactly the depth and breadth of God’s grace. It knows no limits, and there is no corner of humanity that is so dark, so lost, so cruel or filled with hate, that God’s light can’t break in and wash it all away. It has no conditions, and no requirements to live up to in order to receive it. All that is required of us is to let it happen, to simply let God’s grace wash over us.