Give Me Law Or Give Me Death!
As I was watching that scene last night, I couldn't help but think of the many inside the church who, like Javert, have no idea what to do with grace and fight it at every turn and in every way without even realizing why.
We are so deeply conditioned against grace because we've been told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes approval. So, when we hear, "Of course you don't deserve it, but I'm giving it to you anyway," we wonder, "What is this really about? What's the catch?" Internal bells and alarms start to go off, and we begin saying "wait a minute … this sounds too good to be true." By nature we're all wary of grace. We wonder about the ulterior motives of the excessively generous. What's in it for him? After all, who could trust in or believe something so radically unbelievable?
Life the way we've always known it to work doesn't make sense anymore if grace is true.
Robert Capon brilliantly articulates the prayer of the grace-averse heart:
Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.
As I was falling asleep last night and thinking about Javert's struggle, I couldn't help but wonder if the church has too often chosen death over grace. Fearful of what kind of chaos would ensue if we abandoned ourselves wholly to the radicality of grace, we cling to control-we stick with what we know so well, with what comes natural.
It is high time, in my opinion, for the church to embrace sola gratia (grace alone) anew. "For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe, toe-dabbling Christianity and dive in" (Dane Ortlund). No more "yes grace, but …". No more fine print. No more conditions, qualifications, and footnotes. And especially, no more silly cries for "balance."
It is time to get drunk on grace.
Two hundred-proof, defiant grace.
Copyright © 2012 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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Tullian Tchividjian is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.