Read Ephesians 1
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” (Galatians 2:21, NRSV)
It is hard to keep up with who’s who when it comes to Christianity. There are so many denominations, each one claiming that their understanding of Scripture is the correct understanding. There are fundamentalist Christians who believe in a literal seven-day Creation, who argue against evolution, who believe women should have their heads covered and remain silent in church, who believe that women shouldn’t be allowed to be ordained, who look at tattoos and piercings as sinful, who believe that anything that isn’t Christian (or their understanding of Christian) is Satanic, and so on and so forth.
Then on the flip side, there are super liberal Christians who believe that all roads lead to God, that all speech should be inclusive (unless it goes against what they consider to be “inclusive”…which means that they don’t really believe in inclusive speech), who believe that Paul was a misogynist, who believe that the word Christian means social activist, and who believe that we are a world defined by its “isms” (i.e. racism, classism, abelism, sexism, heterosexism, misogynism, etc.).
And of course, most Christians fall somewhere between the two extremes. Most people attempt to understand, respect and follow the traditions of their faith, but recognize that we’ve come far, by the grace of God, in our understanding of how the world works, in scientific discovery, in social justice, in regard to inclusiveness and other such things. Most people would not find themselves in either extreme, but somewhere in the middle agreeing with some stuff on the one side, and agreeing with some stuff on the other side.
But what do we make of all of this? Is one side more right than the other? Are some groups more Christian than the other? Do some groups have a better understanding of Christ than the others do? The answer to these questions is no. Both sides share in the fate of humanity, which is the inability to have the full picture. I believe that both sides of the extreme would both claim to KNOW that Grace plays a central part in Christianity; however, both sides would also fall under the category of HUMAN when it comes to their understanding and application of that Grace.
But the truth be told that both sides cherry pick their way through the Bible to come to the “truths” that match up to what they believe. And the truth also be told that it is nearly impossible not to. The Bible is a complex, living tradition, that was written over a thousand years ago or more. It encompasses tons of generations, tons of different understandings of God, and tons of understandings of the human-divine relationship. The beauty of the Hebrew Bible is that those who compiled it chose NOT to cherry pick what to put in and what to leave out. Rather they included everything into it, leaving its reader with a rich and diverse and, perhaps, a fuller understanding of who God is.
In the Bible we see a God who is angry and a God who is peaceful. In the Bible we see a God who is chaotic and a God who brings out order and assurance in the midst of chaos. We see a God who is holier than thou and a God who is not afraid to get down and dirty with his Creation. We see all of these conflicting images of God harmonized together in the compilation we call the Bible. We even find, in what we call the New Testament, early Christian commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures and how they divinely relate to the one we know as the Son of God, the Messiah, the Word made flesh.
Let all of this be a challenge to you that wherever you find yourself as a Christian, to be open to the fact that there are others who do not find themselves where you are in your faith but are equally committed to God and Christ in theirs. There is room for all under the cross. God’s grace, if it is to be anything worthwhile and salvific, must be more encompassing than our own understanding of it. If God’s grace is sufficient, then it must be bigger than our limited minds allow for it to be. While we may not be able to help cherry picking around laws that don’t make sense to us, let us not cherry pick who we extend the Grace of God to. Surely, God would wish us to extend God’s grace to all, not just some. Let us be agents of Grace and let God take care of the rest.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
When we stand before God will we be calling for justice or for correct application of the law, or will we be clinging to Grace?
Lord, I recognize that no one is perfect and that none of us can perfectly hold righteousness in our hands, but by the Grace you have given us through Christ our savior. Please guide me to extend to others the grace that you have given to me. Amen.