“So what you are trying to tell me is the you will lend me money only if I don’t really need it?”
“You who have no money,
Come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.”
Some books just stay with you for years on end. You can see the lines on the page. The shade of the paper. The typeface. Even the original emotion can return in a memory.
Before I knew there was a list of acceptable books and authors, I read everything written by Phillp Yancey. Books. Articles. All of it. And then when I got to Seminary, I continued reading him, even though he seemed a little suspect.
I think about his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? all the time. The stories mainly. But the book’s tone and message stay with me. More than anything he helped me see — we live in a world of “ungrace.”
It’s not only an indictment. It’s a statement of fact. The laws, the rules and the expectations recoil in the face of grace. Conditions upon conditions. We have to look for loopholes as we make our through the marketplace. All is to be traded. Gifts are given but with strings attached. And even when they are given freely, we naturally ask, “What’s the catch?”
We often speak of the glories of God’s grace in Jesus in the context of relationships. Which is right and true. But our world spins on what is earned. At least the world we have created. And we’ve created it in our own image.
I don’t know that the call is for businesses and governments to be more gracious. I’m not sure. But I do know the good news of grace in Christ stands askew to the ungrace they trade in.
This is the world I work in now. This world of numbers and bottom lines and earnings and bait disguised as free products.. While full of good people, they must like myself, wield the hammer of law on an anvil of hard cold ungrace.
Not so much an indictment as a statement of fact.
The Kingdom of God is a shot across the bow of our hearts. Hearts that list toward toward ungrace. Hearts too comfortable with the world of ungrace. Preferring it. The church becomes a marketplace of trade because our souls are mired in the marketplace’s ideals.
And then there’s the Kingdom of God, where the poor in spirit have reason to be happy. It’s a different economy altogether, where the laws of supply and demand are turned on their head. Every capitalist must check it at the Kingdom’s door.
Needing grace with nothing to offer is the position of the Kingdom. The King offers it freely. The one thing the world values above all other things is lack of need. Having something to offer gets the attention of bankers and merchants. And everyone else.
The King knows our need better than we do, sees it for all it is. And then with lovingkindness provides all and then some.
Matt, I am glad to see you are posting more often. I hope this is a pattern that continues. I have tried to blog in the past, but I was never sure I had anything worthwhile to say. You, sir, have plenty of worthwhile thoughts. Keep them coming.
Great post Matt. Philip Yancey was a relief for me personally and his writings have been a lifeline for me during a dark valley. When my spiritual crisis began in 2008, it deepened substantially in 2009 to where I thought I was agnostic. I had burned 80% of the relationships I had, and trashed a good portion of Christian material that I had. For some strange reason I hung on to his book “Disappointment with God”. It never saw a dumpster like some of the other material did. When I read “Disappointment with God” it hit a raw nerve with me. When I read the story of Richard I felt like I was reading about myself. I read that multiple times. I was impressed and I tacked on Philip Yancey as an author to read, which I read while I was reading and listening to material from Richard Dawkins, Greta Christina, and Hermant Mehta (Friendly Atheist). I found myself reading a number of books by Yancey. It was an act of grace to read Yancey’s work when I consumed a lot of John Piper material in previous years. But books like “Disappointment with God”, “Where is God When it Hurts?”,”What Good is God?”,”What’s So Amazing About Grace” spoke to me. When the Problem of Evil hollowed me to my core reading Yancey’s writing in “What God is Good?” against the events of September 11, 2001 or the Virginia Tech Massacre were helpful. There was an incredible chapter in that book about alcoholics and grace that I read over and over and over.
I read “What’s so Amazing About Grace” before I had a medical crisis last summer. I had picked up staph bacteria on my leg and was dealing with sepsis. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks dealing with the illness. Against all that I think I was touched by grace for the first time in my life. Here I was having driven a lot of Christians out of my life and raging at Wartburg Watch and Internet Monk about how Christianity is a cancer. And then it began….grace. It was like drinking from a fire hose and it kept coming. People visiting and friends asking if they could pray for me. People offering to help with medical bills and people bringing me stuff. When the visitors cleared out and I laid in my hospital bed and I used to stare at the ceiling at 2:00 AM (because I couldn’t sleep) and I’d ask myself, “Is this grace?”
Philip Yancey’s book on grace taught me much. It’s a shame more people aren’t reading him. I think Christianity would have more love if people stopped reading Piper, Driscoll, etc… and started to read Yancey. The problem with Christianity today is that it lacks love and grace. The love and grace that I was shown, which I clearly didn’t deserve is what helped soften my heart and shift my thinking. If Christians responded with love there wouldn’t be the Richard Dawkins of the world.
Thanks for this. We have traveled a similar road, it sounds. And I’m glad for the company.