Watching grandchildren growing up is fascinating! One of our granddaughters is just learning to speak and assert herself in life. Some of her first words were “I do it” – as she attempted to undertake some task that hitherto someone else had helped her achieve! It reminded me of just how early in life we all strive for independence. And of course it is a trait that becomes stronger as we grow to adulthood – captured perfectly in the popular song of my generation – “I did it my way!”
Dependance, for any mature adult is, to one degree or another, offensive. Whether it is as simple as accepting a gift, or as complex as becoming reliant on others for the basic functions of living.
I have come to the conclusion that dependance, at a spiritual level, is also one of the most offensive things about the message of Jesus and the Bible. Put simple the massage is this – I can do nothing to save myself or make myself acceptable to God – nothing. For this I am totally dependant on another.
The law – as revealed under the covenant between God and the Jewish nation, and which has, or was, adopted as the standard of behaviour by most western civilisations is, according the Bible impossible for humans to adhere to perfectly (Romans 8:3). That is bad enough – but along comes Jesus and elevates the Law – not only to a matter of outward observation – but also a matter of thoughts and intent!
The strict religious observers of Jesus day where more devout, more observant than any “christian” I have ever met. Yet Jesus says – “I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” Matthew 5:20 (NLT) What hope then is there? None! I am totally dependant on what we call “grace” – and that is offensive because it makes me look weak, vulnerable, unable to lift even a finger to help myself. I am as dependant as a new born child. This is truly offensive to us – we scream out against the weakness imposed upon us, the forced indebtedness and the utter shame of it all. Some say Christianity is a crutch for the weak, unintelligent and scared. I’ve got bad news for you – it’s worse than that – it’s more like a wheelchair or a stretcher! A crutch does not help because it still depends on me for its motion – and I am incapable of any movement towards God. According to the bible it is He that seeks me – He that pursues me, He that makes the ultimate sacrifice for me, He that lifts me from the mud and mess. All I can do is rest in Grace.
One of the few people, even in the bible story, who I think realised this was David. Perhaps, more than many, his life failures may have led him to a place of utter despair in his relationship with a holy and righteous God – yet he was able to say –
I am humbled and quieted in your presence.
Like a contented child who rests on its mother’s lap,
I’m your resting child and my soul is content in you.
Psalm 131:2 (TPT)
I think we all need to come to that place! But be warned – to rest there we need to give up every pretension and hope of our own merit and standing. But ultimately, unless we do, we will never even begin to understand the meaning of offensive grace!