What if prayer were like a cosmic ATM card, and you receive this message?
A recent conversation with a dear friend left me befuddled. He made a statement that really gave me pause. He said, “Christ’s love is boundless, but not enough to change the human heart.” Not enough? Insufficient?
We were talking about the awful posts and comments we are bombarded with in this Information Age. The words spoken between total strangers, hiding behind a screen, paints an ugly picture, and causes us to face an unfortunate reality: 2,000 years of Christianity on earth has had zero impact on the human heart. Zero. Nada. Nill.
I know what’s coming, so hang on with me. 2 Corinthians 12:9, But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (ESV) Paul the Apostle was writing about his “thorn in the flesh.” We have no idea what that thorn was, specifically. We do have Paul’s quote from God about his grace being sufficient (enough) for whatever it was.
As a preacher/teacher, one of my favorite tactics for explaining Scripture is by first pointing out what was NOT said. God did not tell Paul that his grace (unearned love and favor, eternal life now) was IN-sufficient. In fact, the Greek expression used here, ἀρκεῖ σοι ἡ χάρις, is written in the active voice, which should read, suffices. The active voice also indicates continuity. In other words, God’s grace always suffices and keeps on sufficing. There is no point where grace ceases to suffice.
Okay, so why do I say that 2,000 years of Christianity have had no lasting effect on humanity?
Because there is no grace in the picture. Grace is not earned. Society has always taught us that if we want something valuable, it must be earned. You have to pay the price to have it. This is not true with grace. It is given freely and sufficiently. You CAN’T earn it. Oh, we try, though.
The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, aka, the Gospel, has been hijacked centuries to make it less grace-friendly. We have invented, creeds, religions, statements of faith, and the sinner’s prayer, to add a level of insufficiency to the grace of God. The crucifixion has been recreated as a transaction to be made rather than forgiveness, love, and grace to simply be had and enjoyed by everyone. We have created a Zeus-like deified monster that we call God to send the unrepentant unbeliever to a hopeless, Christ-less eternity. But…at least He loves you.
It’s no wonder that the love and grace of God haven’t been understood and penetrated the human heart enough to make lasting positive change in our world, Christians can’t seem to understand it either. We have it so screwed up, who the hell would want to hear it?
I submit that the grace and love of God are more than enough to change the world. We have to let it change us, though. God is not a wrathful monster. Jesus told his followers that if they saw Jesus, they were looking at God. Jesus was not a wrathful, cosmic killjoy. He loved everyone and especially the hurt, sick, and marginalized.
Why is that so damn hard for us to embrace and accept? Why do we ignore the very people that Jesus himself cared for and loved?
I’ll tell you why. If we give God and his grace freedom to reign in the lives of every human, you and I lose the ability to control the narrative. We lose control of the outcomes we invented to frighten and control people.
I understand that. I have serious control issues myself. I prefer to have control over my own destiny, rather than just trust that God will unfold every detail as it is meant to. The good news of Jesus Christ and his love have been reduced to something that if you want to get, you have to be willing to give up something of value first. Your dignity, value, purpose, and divine perfection are all left on the altar of “salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.”
No wonder my black brothers and sisters are working so hard to be accepted as equals. No wonder immigrants are treated with unwarranted fear and disdain. No wonder over half a million Christians have left the Church over the last 10 years.
We got it wrong. We screwed it up. Not grace and love, but the presentation of it to mankind. We have packaged the greatest love ever shown as an Americanized cult that keeps the rich, rich and the poor, poor.
No wonder social media is replete with pure hatred and anger and knee-jerk responses to half-truths.
Love is free. Grace is free. Mercy is free. Stop trying to sell it and start living it.
It is most assuredly sufficient. And as someone created in the image of God, you are sufficient too!