A Flaming Arrow
Because it is by grace you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. – Ephesians 2:8-9 (NJB)
There is a difference, Desmond Tutu once observed, between a religion of virtue and a religion of grace.
A religion of virtue says, “If you are really good—a true standout—then God will love you.” A religion of virtue is mostly about our doing. It is about our efforts to get on God’s good side or to demonstrate to others that we are on God’s side. This can lead to a very busy, exhausting, life.
A religion of grace is different. Such a faith says, “You are loved. I have taken your side and will never leave it. Trust this and live boldly.”
Grace says more: when you see no way to mend what has been broken and shattered—possibly by your own actions—there is a power of mending not your own that is forever at work in the universe.
Christianity is a religion of grace. As such, it isn’t first of all about our doing or achievements. It is about a love that loves us first. My life, my projects, when they make sense seem so, as a response to a love that loved me first.
While the above, about a love that loved us first, is true and biblical, it may also be a little tepid. That’s because we throw the word “love” around so casually. So I would add that this love, this God, is persistent, intrusive, relentless, reckless.
Grace is less a bowl of vanilla ice cream than it is a flaming arrow, a blood-stained cross, a tomb strangely empty.
Grant, Holy One, that I may live this day in stunned response to your persistent, reckless love. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.