Friday, December 18, 2009

Grace

If you haven’t read the comments from the ‘dead fly’ post you are missing something exceptional, especially bdfwinn’s poem, and 2lb2’s off the charts oration—what a stunner. 2lb2, you need to visit more often. Your comments are welcome here.

Now back to the incarnation. I have written of the incarnation as the Lord’s acceptance of us as fallen creatures, and in terms of His determined identification with us in our fallenness. The Father, Son and Spirit are not in denial about the disaster of the fall, nor do they react with neutrality or indifference, and certainly not with rage. The dream of our adoption stands, but now this dream includes dealing with our profound darkness. The one thing that the Father, Son and Spirit counted on from us—the single divine expectation—is that we would reject Jesus and put Him to death. It is here that we see the incarnation as grace.

I have heard grace defined as ‘God’s unmerited favor’ and as ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.’ There is something to be said for both ideas, notwithstanding the latter’s assumed and dreadful split between the Father and the Son. The love of the Father, Son and Spirit is certainly unmerited, and it is costly, but more must be said about the pain of grace. To be gracious is to hurt, for it is not merely to wink at a problem, but to enter into it and bear it personally, to endure it, in love and mercy and patience. The incarnation involved and continues to involve Jesus’ entrance into our fallen world and broken lives, and it involves his personal suffering from our blindness. Grace is the freedom to bear another’s scorn, for their salvation.

Many years ago I read Rudyard Kipling’s great poem, “If,” and was struck by one particular line. “If you can keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you, you will be a man.” It is the blaming part that reveals the deep heart of grace. Keeping your wits about you, maintaining your balance and orientation can be difficult, but how much more so when everyone else is flying off the handle, so to speak, or losing the plot, as the Ozzies say, and in their fear and pain making you the scapegoat for their trauma? ‘That is what you call ironic,’ as the one-eyed pirate said. And the grace of the blessed Trinity involves terrible irony. Either the Father, Son and Spirit were caught by surprise when we humiliated and murdered Jesus, or they saw it coming, and deliberately incorporated it as the way of incarnation and reconciliation.

We killed the solution. The blessed Trinity expected it, and used our rejection of Jesus as the means to establish a real relationship with us as we are in our brokenness. Such is grace. But as shocking and beautiful as this is, more must be said. For the death of Jesus was not an act of detached, clinical justice. We murdered him, and the act was full of contempt, and disdain, bitterness, mocking, and hatred. The Father’s Son himself was patronized by his own creatures as a blaspheming, demon-possessed, cursed of God liar who mislead the people and deserved to be spit upon and crucified. Jesus deliberately and willfully submitted himself to suffer our patronizing contempt, even to the point of death by public humiliation. The whole world sneered. Part of his grace toward us was the fact that he did not vaporize the human race, and part was his astonishing heart of submission to our profoundly bizarre and cruel judgment. But there was no other way for the dream off the Father, Son and Spirit to be fulfilled. Grace is the freedom to bear the scorn of another’s enlightenment, and Jesus did it, thereby proving himself a Kipling man, gracious, and truly divine.

‘No room in the in,’ was the first hint of the human enmity on Jesus’ horizon. He never batted an eye, and “instead of the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Think about this: in Jesus himself, in his own person and experience, the world of our darkness, contempt and disdain met the world of his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the place where these two worlds met and are united. By bearing our bitter, patronizing cruelty, Jesus has united his life with the worst of ours. That is acceptance, and identification, real forgiveness and reconciliation, and that is grace. And it is real. And we are included in Jesus’ relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit, because, as Athanasius said, he is a gracious and merciful Lord who loves the human race.

“What love, what care, what fearless joy
has found us in the night
that we may know as he has known
the everlasting light”

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of his Papa, and the free flowing fellowship of the Holy Spirit overwhelm us all, this season in particular.

14 comments:

tim parker said...

Sorry, but I quote: ‘That is what you call ironic,’ as the one-eyed pirate said.'
I fail to see how this category, called ironic is illustrative of Grace in any measure. And also, for the non-cognoscenti amongst us, who is this one-eyed pirate? Isn't it rather , well ironic, that the very material under question, namely, Grace and Christ, well, makes me under ridicule and maybe contempt, into a mini-Christ, myself!
Christmas Greetings to you all.

bill winn said...

Disregarding the peril of sounding contrapuntal I would posit that only in the self-referentially incoherent dualism of pagan Greek-minded deism are we ever mini-Christs. The ontological truth about each of us is that we belong to the Father, Son, and Spirit and the irony is that the Creator stepped into creation to redeem it and our response was to summarily rise up to kill Him and in so doing worked (albeit unknowingly) to accommodate Jesus in accomplishing the Grace-filled reconciliation of the entire Kosmos. As Dr. Kruger stated the dream of our adoption stands. The Father accepts us after we began the "road to ruin" (Athanasius, On the Incarnation Ch.2 s.6)

True irony may often be found right under our noses and unbeknownst to us its scent blinding to our own recognition of it.

Baxter, thanks for pointing out that the malice with which we greeted the Savior of All Mankind was not insuperable for the blessed Trinity in the Triplex Munus of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

A church I know yoyos grace, then back away from grace, grace then back away. They have been this way since I was a child. There is no growth.
But here I don't hear backing away from grace but ever pressing forward to it. Just recently I was talking with the Lord about something I would not have even thought about talking to him about in the past. He has met me where I am every time and some of those places I should not have been.
Thank you Baxter for ever pressing forward. Your teaching has really helped me in knowing God meets me where I am and knowing I don't have to change from where I am to talk with him. Ron

Boyd Merriman said...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Essay said...

Thank you for sharing, I like it worth reading.

timothya3 said...

Maybe someone can clarify for me the following: if it is the ontological truth that we belong to the Father, Son and Spirit..[Bill Winn] then, is it not equally true that we belong to each other as well? And, that how we relate to one another honours or disregards Christ himself? But who is this Christ of the Trinity? Do any of you have a problem with understanding Christ precisely because we cannot see him as he is, so he remains for stubborn minds, an image of a man of middle-eastern appearance, radiating love, yet is not just that! So Christ is Homousion. What is that? Man and something more. Does anyone know what that something more is and is it too non-picturable? I have heard parents say they love their child more than Christ, precisely because their child appears to them and hence is real. For their child is more real than Christmas could ever be. Contrib. tim parker

Boyd Merriman said...

Tim, you asked, "is it not equally true that we belong to each other as well?"

Correct! Jesus said, "If you have done [these things] to the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me".

This Christ of the Trinity is non other than the very Word of God. He is fully God and fully man. And since he is still human (see my blog on The Ultimate Sacrifice) and is as much of the human race as we are. And because, as human, he took humanity to the right hand of the Father, we are included, all of humanity, in the Trinity.

Of course, being human, we do love our children more than Christ, and it's precisely because we do not yet see, and our vision is still broken. But by God's grace, Jesus, as humanity, will love God more for us. Any love that we have for our children (and family) is simply the love that God gave us through Christ. So any love that we do have came from the Father through the Son anyway, no matter where we direct it.

(And I do mean the right kind of love, not the broken love (aka lust) of this world).

If you think that is confusing, to love our children more than Christ, yet that love came from Christ, then we can see how confusing it is to see that we are forgiven for killing Christ on the cross, yet that very death we committed upon him is what forgave us.

It's like knowing you cannot go to the Father, except through Christ, yet you cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws you to him so you can go to the Father, who already drew you unto himself through Christ.....get it?? (See my other blog Round and Round we Go)

OK, I'm messed up now.

Boyd

Anonymous said...

TIM SAID: "is it not equally true that we belong to each other as well?"

I personally don't feel like I belong to humanity. With my limited understanding I just cannot join in on that one. Maybe someone can think somewhat deeper on that and we both can learn something.

TIM ALSO SAID: "So Christ is Homousion. What is that? Man and something more. Does anyone know what that something more is and is it too non-picturable?"

When I used to pray I actually prayed to two gods (worldwide church of god)and of course God was divided. When the truth of the trinity began to come into my thinking and someone expounded on the topic of ONE God, God became much bigger in my thought. Now, with this trinitarian doctrine in the spotlight the growing continues because for me the division of God is still part of my foundational thinking that is being slowly repaired.

As far as loving our children more that Christ, it sounds to me that anyone that would say that is lacking in understanding of their love for Christ. For me Christ is the reason my love for my children has grown. Now, I would have chosen a church I used to attend over my child but of course that wasn't Christ. Christ is the reason I love my child and the reason I love my child more and more.

Ron

timothya3 said...

Boyd, I think Jesus must be doing a lot of loving for us, but how much I dont know. It seems too, that only in the light of who Jesus is , in his humanity for us, do we begin to see how wholly deficient we are. But where is the well-spring from which we draw of his life. Am i reduced to just asking for his life in me, moment by moment? As simple as that? If so, that makes of the Divine life in man, a profound simplicity, but why is it then, that some have said, that if, as men, could understand the mind of a woman, then.....we could make a fortune! tim parker PS. i will indeed follow up your blog refs. as your (?) head and mine is in a spin after reading some of the your post contents.

timothya3 said...

Here is a litte response to the last "anonymous". Certainly we all have a little or a long way to go in maturity. How is this, from the first encyclical of the present Pope - on Love. i quote, [the atonement] was the turning of God against himself...[a reconcilation of ] justice and love. A 'turning of God against himself, his love against his justice'. I'm speechless and feel no need to issue rambling statements of insufficiencies. Except to say, do we conclude that there is teaching abroad which states that jesus is rather nice character but his Father is a bit, well, conflicted by it all? Seriously, contrib.tim parker.

Boyd Merriman said...

Timothy, I'll try to reply to both comments.

Your observations of religious views of God is correct. The churches have been in the mindset that "God" is angry, especially the "God of the Old Testament" and Jesus came along to be a buffer between humanity and the angry God.

In reality, God IS Father,
Son and Spirit. That means, Jesus is the God of the Old Testament just like the Father and HS.

So "God" is a just and loving God. Sure, God (Triune) is angry, angry at sin. Angry at what sin is doing to His beloved children.

So here we are, blinded, helpless, and virtually dead (You will die on the day that you eat of the fruit) and our relationship with our loving God (Triune) has been broken.

But God's love for us has not been broken. He hates the way we live, we do things, and what we do to each other, but does not hate humanity. "For God so loved the world (cosmos, all of creation) that he gave his only begotten son..."

How simple can it be? By believing what Jesus said about himself and the Father. I and the Father are one. So we cannot say that God (Father) is very angry and say God (Son) loves us against the angry God (Father) if they are one in thought, mission, vision and hope.

For Jesus to make that huge sacrifice to become human, is a love worth shouting about! We focus on his death sacrifice, which we should in the communion, but the communion is about his humanity starting from the conception all the way to sitting at the right hand of the Father to this day! How much love is that? Way more than we can imagine or drum up on our own.

Boyd
BMOC Blog

Anonymous said...

I sometimes feel that God delights in us as we delight in our children, and I also feel He's with us even when we may go somewhere we shouldn't. Not when we're doing something to hurt ourselves or others but otherwise. Do you?

Ron

Anonymous said...

...sorry for the confusion and the unclear thoughts in my last post. What I mean to say is: "I believe God delights in us, just as we delight in our children."
Also when I said I believe he is with us, I mean he delights in us.
Ron

JLogrono said...

Thanks for your ongoing thoughts. I'm a regular reader. May I share an animated illustration of how futile it is to try to work out our salvation. It's found in http://urincluded.com/?p=190