Our society around us (which means all of us in the end) loves labels. We want to categorize everything. So what is Christianity? It is one of the “world religions.” “It is something people may choose to believe.” “It is the predominant faith group in this region and the minority faith group in that region.” Christianity ends up sounding like something you would find in an ice cream shop. Come by and choose one of the 32 flavors (that is if you like ice cream). Some people who are smart know that’s not good for you anyway…
But while all religions have certain parallels, one thing that is distinctively Christian is the idea of grace. It is not the underlying approach of secular society or any other world religion. Unfortunately, even Christians themselves seem to forget at times how central it is. But the Bible puts grace front and center. It is by grace we were made. It is by grace that our flaws do not doom us. And it is through grace that we are saved for something much more.
Grace can (and has) been cheapened by those who want to take the concept and run with it to the extreme that we can in effect do anything we want and live life in whatever way we please. But teachers from Paul to Augustine to Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Phil Yancey underscore that real grace can only be experienced when we honestly approach God with our deficiencies and ask him to help fill the gaps. And it equally means accepting that others will always have their deficiencies and loving them anyway (even our enemies, an amazingly radical idea, still to this day).
Grace can seem scandalous to some. When it is someone else’s sin we are dealing with, we want justice! But seldom do people really want justice for their own sin. We therefore know in our core that this is central, not to some “religion” but to our own experience of life and what is needed.
The “Heart of the Matter” as Don Henley sings in a famous song, is about forgiveness.
If we live out this message and approach God in this way, we will find that the world around us will stop confusing us as one of “many roads to God” (if there is a God, they will be quick to add). But in the end, God has always been there and there is only one road. And it comes by grace of God we know through his Son Jesus Christ.
And that may very well mean that all those other “flavors” should and will be treated with grace as well.
Just some food for thought on a rainy afternoon.
All the best and In Christ,