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Under the Influence

California's intoxicating spiritual and cultural impact on America.

We do not have to compete for grace, mine for it, earn it, or pay for it. It does not come and go. We can only rest in grace, thus becoming agents of grace. The translation of Sabbath to the word rest does not describe the kind of rest that's meant. When one is being rescued from drowning, the lifeguard shouts, relax! That's one notion behind Sabbath. When we rest from our frantic labor, we are being asked to trust another that everything is going to be okay. We don't have to save ourselves; we are being saved. We do not have to fret and flail and snatch. We are being cared for.

Living in grace is itself the work to which we are called, and hard work it is too. We must fight for the gospel of grace today harder than the Galatian church had to fight in the days of St. Paul. Happily, and emblematic of our state's potential, it was a native Californian, the community-minded Josiah Royce, who coined the phrase "the will to believe." At our best, this is who Californians really are—not gullible and silly, but people with the will to believe. As I tell my theater students, unless we are children, it is hard work to make (ourselves) believe. It is hard work to be nice to others when we have been warned against them. It is hard work to rely on the goodness of God when the evidence appears otherwise. It takes years of practice.

I'd give anything if Californians really could be as the nation has stereotyped them: laid back. To me, the California sea otter is the perfect symbol for the truly gracious living always inherent in our state's best possibilities. Once land-based animals, otters were slaughtered by the thousands for their fur in the general blood bath of economic expansion. Like ...

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Christianity Today
Under the Influence
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In the Magazine

September 2010

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