Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Here, catch this!

I wish I could relate to a blind old beggar who desperately cried, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Luke 18.38). This word for "mercy", eleos, means kindness toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to help them. This man knew the dire straits he was in and acknowledged that he had no hope but for this wandering rabbi. Yet, if I understand this word eleos, he also looked to Jesus as one who would indeed pity his wretchedness and help him.

Mercy and grace: two things about which I know little, if nothing at all. The fact is, I was dead in trespasses and sins, in which I formerly lived, breathed, and had my being. I used to live only to gratify the desires of my flesh and my mind (notice that both are totally f'ed) and was by my very nature a child of wrath (Eph 2.1-3). But do I believe this? Do I understand it? Not at all. Maybe it's because I've believed in Jesus as, somehow, the One who provided relief from God's wrath my whole life long. Not that it made much of a difference, though.

I wish I could understand how very dead we all are apart from Christ and God's sovereign grace. I know that we don't just limp along, wheezing and coughing, flailing for breath. We were dead. Flatliners. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (Eph 2.4-5). We were made alive, you see? God didn't just make some great offer to each of us, saying, "Look, I'm throwing you this life preserver. Just take hold of it and you won't drown!" Gaseous, bloated, floating corpses do not take hold of life preservers. And dead men do not resuscitate themselves! It's entirely God's work, start to finish.

This is so hard for me to grasp. Yes, I can explain it in rather precise doctrinal detail--first comes rebirth by the Holy Spirit, which enables us to see the light of Christ, then God grants us faith in this Christ, etc. etc.--but its effects on me seem lost. Donald Miller wrote in Blue Like Jazz about a friend of his who "didn't know how to live within in a system where nobody owed anybody else anything" (p. 83). This is what I don't get. When I find myself faced with sins that won't go away, I can't even take my own advice (see the previous post). Instead of believing I am just as fully loved by the God who proved the full measure of his love on a cross while I was still a sinner and a God-hater, and that he is immutable and that my sins can't change or affect his kind disposition toward me, I believe in some man-like God who gets upset when I sin and will withhold some part of his approval of me until I get my act straight. I pervert grace and the fact that none of this redemption bit was ever my doing or choice. Duh, Drew! We all need to get this, to know this, to believe this. We need to cry, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us", knowing full well that he longs to be gracious to us and have compassion on us, changing us and healing us and showering his free love on us (Isa 30.18).

No comments: