Grace Emerges

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What is grace?

What is grace?  Apparently, English-speaking society has arrived at the following definitions...


  [greys]  Show IPA noun, verb, graced,grac·ing.
elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action: We watched her skate with effortless grace across the ice.attractiveness, charm, gracefulness,comeliness, ease, lissomeness, fluidity. stiffness,ugliness, awkwardness, clumsiness; klutziness.
a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment: He lacked the manly graces.
favor or goodwill. kindness, kindliness, love,benignity; Antonyms: condescension.
a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior: It was only through the dean's grace that I wasn't expelled from school.forgiveness, charity, mercifulness. animosity, enmity, disfavor.
mercy; clemency; pardon: He was saved by an act of grace from the governor. lenity, leniency, reprieve.harshness.
favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.
an allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against himor her or a penalty applied: The life insurance premium is duetoday, but we have 31 days' grace before the policy lapses.Compare grace period.
Theology .
the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces.
Also called state of grace. the condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect.
moral strength: the grace to perform a duty.
a short prayer before or after a meal, in which a blessing is asked and thanks are given: Grandfather will now say grace.
usually initial capital letter a formal title used in addressing or mentioning a duke, duchess, or archbishop, and formerlyalso a sovereign (usually preceded by your, his,  etc.).
Graces, Classical Mythology the goddesses of beauty,daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, worshiped in Greece asthe Charities and in Rome as the Gratiae.
Music grace note.

Notice how in these definitions, the common concept of grace divides people into groups of "haves" and "have nots".  Those that are beautiful and those that are plain (def'n 1, 2).  Those that receive leniency and those that receive harshness, those in favor and those out of favor (3, 4, 5, 6).  Those that meet the deadline, and those that don't (7).  Those with special attributes, and everyone else (2, 9, 11, 12, 13).

In other words, "grace" is in contrast to plain, ordinary, folks that haven't met some requirement or deadline, don't have what it takes, or don't have it "in" with the authorities.  Grace makes you a winner.  The rest of us are losers!  Grace is about unfairness, about "grading on a curve", so that some pass and some fail.  It's about percentiles.  Some are above-average, some are below-averaged.  Grace is about elitist society.  Grace is about normal life, unfair as it may be.

If you've read my blog, you know that I have a problem with that.  And it's not because I just don't like it.  It's because the teachings of Jesus were far above this kind of thinking.  The teachings of Jesus turn the concepts of normal life upside down.  They transcend elitism, in fact they tear down systems of control and hierarchy. What do they replace it with?  Another unfair system?  No - as I've tried to explain in some previous posts (like, Jesus replaced elitism with a perfect kingdom.  With a perfect king.  The king of ultimate authority but also perfect grace.  Our favor does not depend on any man-made system, or any spiritual ticket, but only on a personality, a being, a king - Jesus/God, the incarnation of God on Earth, the good news for all people.  

What is the good news?  Jesus came for the common man.  Not only for the elite few.

Jesus represents grace perfected, not the flawed divisive grace of normal life.  Why should Jesus fit the status quo and bring us a more refined unfair system?  Why should he be limited to work within a framework of "haves" and "have nots"?  God has all the authority needed to re-write the rule book, and to perfect the art of grace.  God is not limited to our human definition.

Let's make Christianity about a new kind of grace.  Not the status quo grace handed out by arbitrary judges.  Not the status quo grace that is designed to be unobtainable by the masses.  Like the loaves and fishes that Jesus used to feed the crowd of common folks, let's make Christianity about a grace that spreads, levels the playing field, and brings good news to all.  Amen!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Ubiquitous Other- Repost

In light of the new book by Brian McClaren (below) I am re-posting this article.  And because I like it.  In his book Brian seems to fight from many different angles the notion of "Us" vs. "Them" that is pervasive among religions.  Community is defined in such a way that it excludes "Them" so it can take care of "Us".  But what do we all have in common?  What is the underlying reason for people to reach out to God?   In my thinking, we are all "the common man".

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian D. McLaren (Sep 11, 2012)

The Ubiquitous Other

by Brad Duncan

Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world. (James 1:27, God’s Word)

There is a group of people that have a background role in the gospels and epistles, a group of people we can call "the ubiquitous other."  They are everywhere.  They are the common man.  

They are the widows and orphans.  They are the brother or sister that is naked or hungry.  They are the least of these.  They are the world.  They are the context in which we live our lives.  

The ubiquitous other, according to the book of James, is the recipient of the kindness of believers showing the true colors of their faith, and showing pure unstained religion.

The ubiquitous other, in Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheep and goats), is the "least of these", the seemingly unimportant, the hungry, thirsty, homeless and naked. They are background to Jesus's parable about how having faith is pretty much meaningless if it doesn't cause us to care when we see someone in need.

Monday, September 17, 2012

END ELITISM: Honesty. Honestly

Ok here's the last one (maybe) on ending elitism in order to be a more )open( church:

What's the cure for elitism?  Maybe it's honesty.

Are we honestly better?  Are we honestly more righteous, more spiritual?  Are we more virtuous due to the company we keep?  Do we honestly encourage each other toward doing good?  Do we honestly express ourselves?  Do we honestly listen?

Is it working?  Honestly?

It's like the old joke: "I'm not lying, ..., most of the time."

I'm not saying we should be perfect.  I'm saying that honestly, we're not, and that kindof levels the playing field.

Can we build a fully inclusive community of people listening to God, and participating in God's work, being the very kingdom that was declared by Jesus to have arrived?  Can we form this community out of human stuff, a big dose humility and an extra dose of honesty?  Perfection not required - not ever even in the ballpark.  

God made us this way - God must like us !  Honestly.

The Wrong Idea about Community

by Brad Duncan


I think we have the wrong idea about the word community.

We think it means it's okay to be isolationist, protective, biased, self-policing, conformist, and self-serving.

That's not what Jesus taught in the parable of the good Samaritan, or the one about the sheep and goats.

He taught that being a community is like a friendly neighbor that doesn't care if you conform or not to his standards. Hey, we're neighbors! That's good enough for me.

An Unfinished Record; An Uncharted Path

You've got to see this article by Dan Haseltine, lead singer of Jars of Clay.  For one, I love Jars of Clay. For two, he's describing how I feel.

He's describing how he doesn't fit into evangelical expectations.  I love what he says about being authentic, and that if God didn't want him to be this way, God would not have led their band into basically *real life* and *real people* around him.  God is in their story.  I hope you take the time to read this...

[reposted from]

Monday, September 3, 2012

END ELITISM: Let it go

by Brad Duncan

Let go of elitism
Let it go
Let go of both grudges and privileges
Let go of the status quo, and stop adamantly defending it
Let go of the comfortable social environment and social standing
Let go of defending God against humanity
Let go of divisions over who is In and who is Out
Let go of being separate from the world. We're not any better than anyone else.

Let it go

Let go of prejudices. Admit we can be wrong 
Let go of discrimination
Let go of marginalization of women
Let go of fear of the unknown

Let it go

Let go of goods made by slaves in foreign lands. Refuse to buy them.
Let go of some of our wealth, to bring a future for others
Let go of all the best stuff for ourselves
Let go of permanent poverty, perpetual hunger, and unequipped medical care

Let it go

Let God's will and passion thrive without standing in the way
Let God's kingdom come
Let our kingdoms give way
Let elitism fade. Let grace grow

Let it go

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Let It Go

by Brad Duncan

I was considering the phrase "let it go".  It seems like such wisdom, compared to the alternative which is to hold on to something with a white-knuckled grip.  What does it mean for a Christian to "let it go"?  Well, it resonates with some important Biblical teachings:

Let It Go:

  • Following Jesus: Jesus presented the kingdom, and the call for disciples to follow him.  Anything else of the old life of the disciple had to be left behind in order to truly follow.  There were cases where Jesus asked someone to let go of riches, family, and home to come and be a follower.  More often he called people to leave behind their old religious system, in order to embrace the new message of redemption.  "You can't put new wine in old wine skins," he said.  He may ask us to let go of what we're holding on to so firmly, so that we can do what we are truly called to do.  It is impossible to cling, and to move forward.
  • Forgiveness:  When it comes to dealing with other, sinful, humans in a loving way, we frequently have to "let it go."  Let go of offense.  Let go of their mistakes (and ours).  Let go of disagreement.  Let go of fear of differences.  Let go of the opportunity to control the other person's behavior.  Let go of anger.  We are called to do this because we submit to a higher authority, who is ultimately responsible for forging the spiritual character of each of us in truth and righteousness.  If we can let go of taking the role of judge, and instead adopt the role of forgiver, then we can love unconditionally.  In relationships, we can take the emotionally and spiritually healthy, pragmatic, road that leads to both sides winning, if we can let go of our own need to control the outcome and anger toward the other person.  That is called forgiveness.
  • Humility: We must "let it go" when it comes to securing power, influence, respect, or even fame for ourselves.  We are called to take the less important seat, to take the servant's job, and to consider sacrificial love as the highest calling.  We must let go of pride to discover humility.  Consider the mantra to "love your enemies."  That means the ultimate in giving up our stance that makes us that person's enemy.  We back down.  We lower our chin held so high, and we try to find common ground with the other person, maybe even honoring them above ourselves.  In a word: loving them.  The benefits to our own heart and character are immense as we learn the way of humility and let go of being more right, more socially acceptable, more powerful, and of being more righteous, than the other guy.  Honor others instead.  It is the way of Jesus.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

END ELITISM (More Ways):

Encourage questions
Abandon baggage
Imagine community
Dream bigger
Cast a wide net
Refuse privelege
Decline control
Make the weak more powerful
Be tolerant
Put others above yourself
Honor others
Be courageous