What’s so Difficult About Grace?

Bono once said the concept of grace is what attracted him to Christianity. In an interview with Kichka Assayas, Bono said, "The thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between grace and karma. ... At the center of all religions is the idea of karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that ‘as you reap, so you will sow’ stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts the consequences of your actions. ... I'd be in big trouble if karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep $#!%. It doesn't excuse my mistakes but I'm holding out for grace." (Read the full interview in the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas)

Grace, in the way the bible describes it, is a beautiful thing. It is this grand idea that anything, no matter how heinous could be forgiven. Not only is forgiveness available to all who seek it, there is nothing anyone can do to earn it; we must only ask for it and accept it. We don't have to try to be extra good, we don't have to jump through hoops, we don't have to perform any acts of penance, we don't have to spend the rest of our lives feeling guilty for the errors of our past. Grace is just there, freely given, no questions asked.

Even secular culture recognizes the alluring power of Grace. Amazing Grace is one of the most famous hymns ever written. If you attend a funeral for a police officer or a firefighter, chances are good you’ll hear it played on bagpipes. People who have never set foot inside a church building could sing the entire song. 20th Century Fox used the hymn as background music in their Super Bowl Trailer for Logan; the screen flashed with images of rifles and adamantium claws while a hauntingly beautiful voice sang those familiar lyrics, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that save a wretch like me.”

For many Christians, it is difficult to take grace seriously. We see it as too abstract to fully comprehend it. Or we reinterpret it as if it is nothing more than wishful thinking. Free grace? Too easy. Our human brains want to make it more complicated than it really is.

It is as if we have forgotten what the bible actually says about grace.

“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)
“The law came to make sin worse. But when sin grew worse, God’s grace increased. Sin once used death to rule us, but God gave people more of his grace so that grace could rule by making people right with him.” (Romans 5:20-21)
“At the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:5-6)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Galatians 2:21)
“But God’s mercy is great, and he loved us very much. Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ. You have been saved by God’s grace.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

We have scripture. We have testimony of great theological thinkers throughout history. We have powerful and moving sermons. They all preach the same message. Grace upon grace. Yet we still get it wrong.

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