A young bartender once told me he thought the Bible was extremely unfair and prejudiced after I informed him I was a man of faith. “Here you are, boss,” he said, dropping off my drink a few moments later. Now there are only two types of men in this world: the one who calls you, “boss,” and you have a sudden desire to make him the best man at your wedding, and the one who calls you, “boss,” and you have a sudden desire to uppercut him onto the dessert table at a wedding. “Yeah, you’re right,” I said to the young bartender after imagining his suit all covered in cake and cookie crumbs. The answer was unexpected, as I could tell he’d clearly been looking to pick a fight about the Bible’s contradictory nature. Perhaps more impressed than angry, he followed up by asking what I thought was the most despicable part of the Bible. “Grace,” I said.
I cannot define grace. I once wrote that grace is the most magnificent force on the planet for it must smother us and completely drown us before it’s capable of rescuing us.
When I think of grace, I think of depth. And when I think of depth, my mind goes to the ocean. Because just as I can’t quite comprehend grace, I can’t handle the size of the ocean either. Specifically where James Cameron traveled down to the The Mariana Trench. A flat, desert landscape fifty times greater than the Grand Canyon sitting seven miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Imagine the creatures Cameron must have seen! Was he the first to set his sights upon alien lifeforms lurking in the murky depths of God’s good ocean beyond anything we’d ever witnessed in Avatar? No. He saw nothing of the sort. Only, “tiny, free-swimming, shrimp-like anthropoids,” drifted by his window. At first, I was devastated by the news as Cameron reported the trench was, “a flat, desolate landscape.” Why would God create a place so deep which man could obviously reach, and not put something there that could glorify Him? Then I thought about what it’s like to wake up and see sunlight first thing in the morning. It’s painful after only eight hours of dark. What about a lifetime of dark? Cameron introduced the concept of light to this very spot for the first time in the history of the world. So I have created this helpful illustration below to show you what I presume really happened when Cameron reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench:
Just look at everything that might be down there! The creatures God so intricately designed. What’s the deal with that faceless, bald mer-man? We’ll never know! Granted there might not be any ghost mermaids or giant ocean slugs, but it gets me thinking that if God put creatures like the octopus, the giant squid, and the anglerfish down there, just think about space and how infinitely deeper it is.
Why would God create all that space and fill it with nothing but big gassy stars, and planets with an average temperature of -300 degrees Celsius? The Universe and its ever-expanding ways is one of the unexplainable miracles that made me believe in a God even though science often tries to point us to the contrary.
Christian as I may be, I like to believe in Aliens. (Disclaimer: I also believe in Bigfoot, the theory that tithing is not directly associated with our annual income, and “vision casting” makes me uneasy, so I’m no expert.) There’s a one-panel comic I once saw somewhere that made me both sad and extremely grateful for grace: an imagine of an astronaut on another planet talking to two little green men in tinfoil hats. The astronaut had brought up the subject of Christ, and the aliens respond with: “Jesus? Yeah, we know him. He stops by here once a week. We give him chocolates. Why? What’d you guys do when you met him?”
Before the Devil ever became El Diablo, he was Lucifer. One of God’s most beautiful Angels and a worship leader in heaven. He was also the first angel to truly exercise choice. Let’s imagine here that just as God created humans capable of free will, certainly God made His angels the same way. We were not designed by a God who forces any of His creations to do anything other than live. You could argue (and I believe) we’ve been created to glorify God in all we do, but that’s still our choice to do so. While Lucifer was leading worship and being beautiful, God was creating life. Lucifer, believing he was just as capable, challenged God for the throne, and God casts him out. He is the fallen star. He is the Devil. He is the Father of Lies. Could it be that Lucifer thought he could create a better world than God, and God said, “Okay, you can have this one. Go ahead and finish what I started.” ?
But God, being the jealous God that He is for us, had just lost His main worship leader and half the choir. He wasn’t about to lose some of His creation either. He knew casting Lucifer out would drastically change the course of the human race. Thankfully, he had a contingency plan: embarking on the greatest clandestine operation ever by going undercover into enemy territory disguised as an infant to make sure His precious creation isn’t lost.
What is most fascinating about this story is the end. It is written that Satan will be cast into a lake of fire for a thousand years when Heaven meets Earth. But at the end of that thousand years, he will be released and allowed to roam the Earth for a while longer, deceiving all he can. Why would God agree to such a thing? Could it be that He still believes in His fallen Lucifer? Does He still hold out hope for the Father of Lies to recognize his ways? Is grace so magnificent that it extends toward even the Devil himself? And what would happen to sin if the Devil repented?
Perplexing questions of aliens, the devil’s fate, and mermaids aside, what I do know of grace is this: Grace is vulgar, offensive, and despicable. It is unfair. It shows no favorites, and respects no boundaries. It is by far the most hypocritical part of the Bible.
Grace is Samson, a man favored by God who slaughtered an army of 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone and still (anointed as he was) gave into temptation and slept with that Siren, Delilah, who shaved his head and stole his strength. At the end of his life, disobedient to God, eyes gouged out, bald, and chained up in a dungeon, he called on God to be used one last time. And God answered.
Grace is Moses when he parts the Red Sea, leads his people out of Egypt, speaks directly to God, and personally delivers the Ten Commandments when in the first chapter of Exodus, he kills a man with his bare hands and buries him in the desert. And when he calls on God, God still answers.
Grace is the apostle Paul, previously known as Saul prior to preaching the gospel, a Biblical contracted killer hunting down and eliminating Christians for a living.
Grace is the woman at the well, and the prostitute who hid spies in her home,
Grace is me here and now, writing this, married and breathing after all the hearts I’ve bruised, the lies I’ve told, the brothers I’ve betrayed, the churches I’ve bashed, and the addictions I’ve let control me.
Grace is the Son of Man being nailed to a tree crying out, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
Grace is the thief on the cross who in the last moments of his life shouts to the Christ crucified along side him, “Don’t forget me.”
Grace is Christ’s reply to him: “On this day you will be with me in paradise.”
copyright © June 20, 2012 || Make It MAD