Monday, May 28, 2012

The Ticket

"The Christian lives by grace as Abba's child, utterly rejecting the God who catches people by surprise in a sign of weakness--the God incapable of smiling at our awkward mistakes, the God who does not accept a seat at our human festivities, the God who says, 'You will pay for that,' the God incapable of understanding that children will always get dirty and forgetful, the God always snooping around for sinners." - Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel.

For the longest time I believed in the God described above.  I really don't know why.  God's not at all like that is he?

Eventually, I had to begin suspecting that my thoughts on God were off, perhaps grossly off.  And this came as a huge grace in my life.  Sometimes I think the greatest grace is suspicion of our conclusions on God.  I had to change or I would die, at least spiritually.

If God is a "merciful God, slow to wrath and abounding in steadfast love" - what he told Moses - then a categorical shift has got to happen at some point in the life a human that is caught in the Pharisaical rules of the world.

I was reminded of this truth last night, as I listened to my church-planter/pastor/friend speak out of Ephesians, illustrating the peace of Christ.  He explained that the peace of Christ is not simply the absence of conflict, but can be better understood as Shalom, which he said is "full-orbed human flourishing."  The peace of Christ is it.  The End.

And the grace of God is this peace, the grace of God is this REAL LIFE, this flourishing.  That's why it's good to suspect the world's petty, rule-driven, performance minded God that is no God at all.

As a child I was obsessed with pleasing God.  I wanted so badly to be accepted by him, but I wanted it on my merit of being a good boy.  I realized something was wrong when as a child of about 6 I distinctly remember absolutely berating myself for the "thought crime" of taking the Lord's name in vain... in my brain!

What kind of God did I believe in?  A God that was just waiting to pounce on me a sinner and pronounce me doomed.

Another friend of mine mentioned that he never doubts that God loves him and that he doesn't understand pastors who are so hung up on grace, because he's like "I get it already, let's move on."  After he said this to me, and I attempted to gather my jaw off the floor, I realized that many of us are in this boat as well.

So many of us swing back and forth, between believing in a petty God to believing in a lovey-dovey God, never realizing fully that the real God is NOT somewhere in between, he's someone whose Godliness (the essence of his character) we simply can't comprehend.

That is why I think suspicion is such a gift.  If we can't comprehend a God who fully loves, fully accepts us, fully delights in us us AND is fully just, fully perfect, fully holy, we don't comprehend the Gospel.  I would contend that all we get this side of heaven is not comprehension, but suspicion that leads to full knowledge in a person.  Full knowledge in that we get all of God in Christ, but partial in that GOOD LUCK plumbing the depths of that person.

But that is the Christian adventure, plumbing the depths of God's unbelievably radical and furious love for sinners, and his unbelievable goodness and holiness.  This adventure is one I believe in is the Christian walk.  And I think of it as very earthy and real.  Tangible.  As tangible as a God become man.  As tangible as a God with us.  As tangible as a God who broke bread with sinners, showed unending patience with sinners and constantly spoke of this mystery of himself, this kingdom, this king.

So if you're like me, and you have the tendency to think you got thrown off the train of life the last time the conductor looked at your raggedy clothes, your disheveled hair, your misapplied make-up, your shoes with holes and your missing teeth, remember you have a ticket, and emblazoned across that ticket is "Son or Daughter of the King."  Hold on to that thing.  It'll get you there.  He will get you there.  "You've got a ticket to ride..."