I was recently listening to some Christian music (because I’m cool). The one song was about God’s grace, a normal topic for this genre, but for some reason, it made me angry. I then realized what bothers me so much about God… grace. You know, the thing that usually draws people to Him? Yeah, it ticks me off… oops. On the plus side, a gracious God isn’t going to strike me dead for writing this… Christians I can’t guarantee won’t want to kill me, but here’s hoping. That being said how can I be angry when grace is… grace? That’s a pretty stupid thing to tick you off. It’s a word people say as a compliment. No rational person uses it as an insult: (angry person) “You’re such a gracious person!” (confused recipient) “Why are you saying a compliment like an insult?” Grace is like communism… something, I’m sure, American pastors would not have said during the Cold War era. Because of grace, God rewards everyone who believes in Him with heaven no matter how hard we work or how good we are. This sucks for me because I’m a workaholic and no matter how hard I work it means nothing. Where’s the reward? Where’s the carrot dangling to make the work worthwhile? The only thing worse than being a workaholic because you want to feel “good enough” (the main reason most people are workaholics) is realizing you’re a workaholic and wanting to stop, but life forces you to continue being one in order to make ends meet. But what’s the point? You work and work, and it all just passes away. Even worse, you end up in the same place as everyone else including people who have had way more interesting and successful lives.
The most famous Christian song, Amazing Grace, is about God’s grace… I’m sure you knew that since it’s in the title. It does a good job describing grace, but the problem is I don’t see myself as a “wretch” (at least anymore). The song was written by a former slave trader, which… um, isn’t my job or hobby or something I even endorse… as you’d expect… hopefully. Overall, I haven’t really done anything that bad/interesting. I couldn’t be any more vanilla if I tried. By this I don’t mean I dress up like Vanilla Ice or sing Ice, Ice, Baby as a pump myself up every morning song; however, if I did that would help make me more interesting. I’m a pretty darn boring guy. I think the most rebellious thing I’ve done was eat white bread when someone just told me it wasn’t healthy. That’s right ladies, I’m a bad boy. I recently finished a book called Have a Little Faith, (an amazing book) that shares the lives of a respected rabbi and an inner city pastor. The story of Pastor Henry is incredible; he was a former drug dealer turned addict who looked to God after using his gun to steal drugs from his suppliers and thinking they were going to kill him… a natural thought when the people you steal from are illegal drug suppliers and know where you live. While waiting behind some trash cans with his gun, Pastor Henry gave his life to God and was consumed by grace and a passion about sharing the Gospel with the down and outs in a rough area of Detroit… which is all of Detroit. But how could he not be? His life was transformed in an amazing way; it wasn’t vanilla like mine. My boring life makes grace seem less relevant. It takes away the full power… or maybe this is all just a sign I’ve forgotten how to feel guilty, and I’m a way bigger sinner than I realize… nah, I’m pretty vanilla; if I was ice cream I’d be “extreme vanilla” which sounds way more exciting that it is.
Some Christians might say that there is a reward when following God. Jesus promises: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8) But that’s the opposite of what I see in our culture. The kindest and most loving people aren’t the ones “thriving”. As the Psalmist says: “Look at these wicked people/ Enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply./ Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?/ Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? (Psa 73:12:13) Someone recently said that the fruit we bear refers to the love in our hearts, but then why are some of the kindest people I know struggling with depression and/or anxiety? How does that work? And why do people like Ted Haggard grow a mega church when he had an addiction to gay prostitutes and cocaine? Was that God’s blessing despite sin or was he just charismatic and a good salesmen? Either way, what does true fruit look like? How do we gage if we’re bearing fruit or just being a good salesman? I know the Psalms are filled with verses about bad people falling, but that’s not necessarily the most comforting thing either: “Don’t worry successful people will eventually be as messed over as you.” Jesus said blessed are the poor, but that’s a hard concept to swallow as a workaholic – why am I poor if I work so hard? Why doesn’t God open a door for people like me when doors fly open for others who couldn’t care less about him? It doesn’t make sense.
So what do I do? I firmly believe in God and His love, so all I can do is follow what the Psalmist says: “But I keep praying to you, Lord,/ hoping this time you will show me favor.” (Psa 69:13). After all, who am I compared to God? Who am I but one in seven billion? What is my life but a moment? And at the end of this moment none of this will matter. I will be with my God and He can tell me why this is how life works. I doubt the answers will seem fair to me, but as I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m an idiot.
This week may you find comfort in the idea of grace rather than the frustration I’ve felt.
Rev Chad David, www.ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people