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grace or disgrace?

August 18, 2012

For me the most basic tenet of Christian faith is that I need help! It may sound weak and wimpy to say so, but frankly I don’t care! I know me – I know I can’t get through the next 12 hours without a huge amount of support.

I think that this is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. In fact I love the expression “non religious christianity” because it seems to sum up all I know to be true of living it! Most religions set out a framework of rules or tasks which you have to do to get to God. They may be moral rules; don’t lie, steal or use violence. They may be religious rules; pray, fast, wash. But they have to be done and unless they are done correctly God will not accept you!

No don’t get me wrong, I have a huge amount of respect for those of any religion who believe sincerely and who practice faithfully. I also think we have a lot to learn from each other, and many things which we can teach the communities that we live in by mutual understanding and respect, but keeping rules is not Christianity.

Those who attempt to practice Christianity by keeping rules, whether it is a rule of life, (when to pray, how to treat others…) or whether it is the negative rules; don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t swear, will end up struggling. They so often end up really miserable, guilty and worst of all unable to show any compassion to anyone else. That is not my idea of Christianity at all!

The basis of our faith is that we believe that Jesus came to do all that we cannot do. that he lived a perfect life, because we can’t that his death somehow paid for our failures. That his life in us is the most joyous and exciting life possible! And that because of Jesus we do not need to keep any rules to be acceptable to God!

This is called Grace, and it is the opposite of the guilt and shame and struggle against human nature that is dis-grace, and that so often is a disgrace!

But the tension is this: if nothing I do makes any difference, so God accepts me even when I do crazy and `sinful` things. Can’t I just live life as I choose and enjoy doing the things I am not supposed to do? In one sense this is absolutely true – and that is the gospel (good news) of Grace. But it is also absolutely true that when we respond to God’s offer of freedom and forgiveness that our lives are expected to change.

No the reality is that when we become Christians there are some things that change more easily than others. When I became a Christian I gave up smoking instantly – and have never craved a cigarette in over 30 years. But there are some things I still struggle with! and it may be will always struggle with. Paul in the Bible describes this as having “thorn in the flesh”, which made his lean on God’s grace. I can identify with that. On the times when by God’s strength I overcome the temptations I face I am conscious that it is by Gods strength. On the occasions when I fail, I am thrown back again on God’s inexhaustible grace.

Freedom and Struggle. Our faith is not either or, but both, and. We struggle to hold both to be true at the same time, but we need to grasp that God is the God of transformation and forgiveness. Any thoughts?

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