When I applied to be a writer for Lifetickler and our good publisher asked me to list down the topics or genres of what I wanted to write, I specifically said I wasn’t going to write about religion. Not that I didn’t have one. I just didn’t like to stir controversies and set off debates. But THIS is not about religion. THIS is about faith. Something I love to speak about. (So I guess I’ve kept my word to our publisher *wink*)
As in most of the articles I write, this is a personal experience. In two of my previous articles, which contents are relevant to this topic, I have learned to attract my tribe with my better vibe, and I have been able to easily manifest wealth in its many forms. Was it through grace? Well, I’m in a very long journey to finding that out but I may just discover it is so.
I’ve encountered grace long ago. In fact, we all have. But it wasn’t until I became a part of a ministry (the tribe I attracted with my vibe) that truly and radically speaks, believes, and acts on the true grace that my past experiences came in full circle. I am tempted to tell you more about my experiences but I am afraid I might lose you in a self-focused babble. So as in any (modern) fairy tale (come true), let us begin with…
Image by Kiran Foster
What is Grace?
In the dictionary, it is a noun, which means unmerited divine assistance given to humans for regeneration or sanctification. But that’s quite broad and heavy, right? Let me quote a few churches to illustrate the difference or sameness of the concept regardless the denomination.
According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:
It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.
In the words of Ellen G. White, a prolific author and one of the founders of now Seventh Day Adventist Church:
Grace is an attribute of God exercised toward undeserving human beings. We did not seek for it, but it was sent in search of us. God rejoices to bestow His grace upon us, not because we are worthy, but because we are so utterly unworthy. Our only claim to His mercy is our great need.—The Ministry of Healing
Father Michael Azkoul in his article about the difference between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, recalls the Latin theory of grace, which Orthodoxy teaches:
…grace is uncreated, and impacts all creation. It is a mysterious extension of the Divine Nature. Orthodox iconography reflects this truth, even as Roman Catholic statues reflect its idea of grace.
Now the Catholics, especially those that took catechism classes follow two different kinds of grace [http://www.catholic.com/tracts/grace-what-it-is-and-what-it-does]:
…there are two kinds of grace, sanctifying and actual…Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy…Actual grace, by contrast, is a supernatural push or encouragement. It’s transient. It doesn’t live in the soul, but acts on the soul from the outside…
Across religions, the concept of grace is pretty much universal. I had come upon the Lutheranism Means of Grace, Reformed theology, and Methodist understanding. Although each sect may have entirely different means to express grace outwardly, the idea of how grace came upon us and what grace is to us are undeniably alike. It is a favor bestowed to the undeserving not through human merits, but through the holiness and death of Jesus Christ.
Okay, so you might say this is going acutely religious. That’s what I thought first, too. But along the way, I realized and learned that radical grace is really different. To a career woman in the modern setting, in the 21st century, this is good news. How I found the contrast, begins when I tried to understand the religion I grew up with, and eventually letting go of its human aspect.
Image by wp paarz
Law and Grace
I was born and eventually grew up in a family of devout Roman Catholics. That describes how I was brought up. Holy Rosary. The Angelus. Way of the Cross. These were ways of expressing the character and depth of our faith. I am not enumerating this out of spite – in fact, as I am recalling it, I am filled with a pleasant kind of nostalgia. My childhood was colored with my days as an angel for Flores de Mayo and as one of the patroness in our local Santacruzan. These are memories that will forever be lovingly burned in my soul.
But as I grew older, I did not only see but felt and experienced the pain that goes with all of it. I am not talking about Jesus’ death. That was divinely painful and no amount of offering, kneel-walking, repetition of memorized prayers, among many, will ever surpass that sacrifice. What I am talking about is the pain of condemnation. It was painful, and many times my belief would slowly dwindle because I later realized how tiresome and ironic it was to be religious. When I came to know about grace, I realized that the pain was coming from the belief by law.
Image by LearningLark
What is belief by God’s law?
Atheists and agnostics cannot be blamed why they have this idea of God being a big bully. A punisher who is loved out of fear. This is partly because of how media and then quite a few religious outfits dress God up. The God of the Old Testament. A quote by Richard Dawkins from his book the God Delusion, sums it all up as:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
That was how God was to me when I lived by his law. Do the 10 commandments still ring a bell? Those are laws. DO and DO NOT. When I DID NOT the DO and DID the DO NOT, I knew God must be angry and I was going to be punished. I was going to be cursed, so I need to go to church as often, pray Our Father repetitively, the list goes on. It was tiresome. It is tiresome. To think of a divine helper who is not very helpful. Not to mention a handful of ironies, which are thoughtful but not really thought-through, ironies nonetheless. Until I met grace.
What is belief by God’s grace?
I am not just taking about amazing grace. How sweet that really sounds. But I am talking about radical grace, of which is even sweeter. Why? Because we do not need to be so tired, the work is done. Jesus did it already – all the toiling needed to earn God’s respect as in the Old Testament. His death marks the beginning of the New Testament, where we live by His grace and no longer by the law.
Law versus Grace
Now the take away. So since Jesus did it all, do we still need to do anything to earn…what do we earn? The real question is; Law vs grace: Why is there so much conflict among Christians on the issue?
One side says, “Salvation is by grace and grace alone.” The other side counters, “That idea leads to lawlessness. God’s righteous standard in the Law must be upheld.” And someone else chimes in with, “Salvation is by grace, but grace only comes to those who obey God’s Law.”
The Christian churches, no matter the name, are now divided to those who live in God’s law, those who live partly in God’s law and partly in God’s grace, and quite a few who really live in the true, pure grace of God.
The ministry (the tribe) I have begun to be a part of (coz it matches my vibe) flows with the pure gospel of grace. You might wonder, are we a lazy sort of lot who has relied on Jesus’ finished work – and since we are free and clean, are we mindlessly sinning around? This is the difficult part to understand. Surprisingly, we are not. But there isn’t so much work to do anymore. It’s all just about surrendering. What kind of surrendering? Let me put that on hold for the second part of this article. You know, to keep things going and the discovery even more exciting just as I learned about it.
If you ask me…
I know a lot of people who will vomit what I am saying here. To begin with, this is a radical idea, but it is already in place. For me it was easier to transition to grace, because of the many churches I’ve attended, many belief systems I have studied and appreciated. Never have I seen or felt or believed a matter so closely appropriate and almost universal with other beliefs. I only needed to shed off the worldly ideas and go straight to the divine source.
In the second part, I am very much excited to stir and shake conventional Christian thinking. I am not the first one to do so. But it will be quite a revelation coming from me, as I write about the most controversial concepts of radical grace.