Law and Grace
Thursday, May 25, 2017
We first see the idea of grace in the Hebrew Scriptures through the concept of election or chosenness. This is eventually called “covenant love” because it finally becomes a mutual giving and receiving. This love is always initiated from YHWH’s side toward the people of Israel, and they gradually learn to trust it and respond in kind. The Bible shows a relentless movement toward intimacy and divine union between Creator and creatures. For this to happen, there needs to be some degree of compatibility, likeness, or even “sameness” between the two parties. In other words, there has to be a little bit of God in us that wants to find itself.
We see the message of implanted grace most clearly in Jesus. He recognizes that he is one with God. Jesus knows that it is God in him doing the knowing, loving, and serving. Jesus fully trusts his deepest identity and never doubts it, which is the unique character of his divine sonship. We often doubt, deny, and reject our true identity, finding it hard to believe what we did not choose or create ourselves. Such unaccountable gratuity is precisely the meaning of grace and also why we are afraid to trust it. Yes, it is God in us that always seeks and knows God; like always knows like. We are made for one another from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4-6). Maybe the ultimate grace is to know that it is all grace to begin with! It is already a grace to recognize that it is grace.
God doesn’t love the Israelites, anybody else, or even us today because we are good. God loves us from a free and deliberate choice. Receiving God’s love has never been a “worthiness contest.” This is very hard for almost everyone to accept. It is finally a surrendering and never a full understanding. The proud will seldom submit until they are “brought down from their thrones,” as Mary put it (Luke 1:52). It just does not compute inside our binary, judging, competing, and comparing brains.
God does not love you because you are good; God loves you because God is good. And then you can be good because you draw upon such an Infinite Source. The older I get, the more I am sure that God does all the giving and we do all of the receiving. God is always and forever the initiator in my life, and I am, on occasion, the half-hearted respondent. My mustard seed of a response seems to be more than enough for a humble God, even though the mustard seed is “the tiniest of all the seeds” (Matthew 13:32).
God makes use of everything that we offer and thus expands our freedom. Otherwise it would not be a covenant love, but a mere coercion. God even implants the desire within us to desire even more intimacy with God.
Gateway to Silence:
By grace I am saved.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 163-164.