Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Defining Grace

There are two extreme attitudes towards bad action. One is to condemn the action along with the agent. The other is to ignore the wrongness of the action. Between these, there is a spectrum of ignoring and condemning. The attitude which is probably most common is to allow for some wrongs as acceptable, to be overlooked, and others remain condemnable. Thus a spectrum of wrongs are introduced.

Grace is not on this spectrum. It is entirely condemnatory, and yet conserves the other side of the spectrum in that grace preserves the wrongdoer. Grace is, in fact, not grace unless the full force of the condemnation is preserved. Where the condemnatory attitude condemns the agent along with his action, grace condemns the action while preserving the agent by viewing the action as already condemned elsewhere, that is, by the hope that the agent will be found to be united with Christ, and thus their sins condemned in his death.

Christian grace, then, relies upon the hope of the union with Christ effected by the Spirit in the sight of the Father. It therefore relies on the triune God. Apart from the trinity, our sins are not condemned in Christ, nor do we live in Christ's resurrection. And apart from this there is no hope for a condemnation which rightly condemns our sins while preserving our selves. If Christ has not died for sins, then, we have only relative right and wrong, wronger and righter, and must make do with however right we can get.

Since Christ has died for the forgiveness of sins, however, there is a better way. We may, granting the wrongness of wrongs, nevertheless act in the hope and pursuit of the wrongdoer's being joined to Christ. Grace, then, acts in the hope of reconciliation. In some cases, this looks more like condemnation, and is condemnatory, but only because this is the means by which we hope to see them eventually reconciled to God. We condemn that they may see their sins, and thus see their need for grace. We give grace, in full recognition of the wrongness of the wrongs, in order to show them that, though they do deserve condemnation, that condemnation need not be suffered by themselves. The law is tightened, the bar raised, that we might see our need for a Savior.

Grace is action towards reconciliation, neither denying the divide nor allowing it to remain. It refuses to permit the wrong to have the final say, which would cast judgment on the agent without hope for their return to us, yet recognizes that it has had a say, which makes a return necessary, and thus seeks to void the wrong by swallowing it up in the death of Christ and thereby reconciling the human being made in the image of God to the God who judges justly.

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