God’s Destructive Grace
As I lie awake in bed in a far away land I cant help but think about the way God’s grace is so amazing, in large part, because of its power to destroy. Think about it. I know it is probably a little odd to hear that God, the creator and author of life, the giver of breath, and the sustainer of the universe, is also a destructive God, but let me explain myself.
I think that at least half of the power of God’s grace is its ability to demolish the walls that separate us from Him and from each other. This is what the life of Jesus was all about. Jesus came to eliminate the barriers that keep us from experiencing the love of God and the barricades that we have put up to keep us from loving others. Jesus did this with his life as well as his death and finally his resurrection. When Jesus died on the cross even the temple curtain was ripped, representing the way God was destroying the barriers between Himself and the people He loves. In tearing the temple curtain from top to bottom God unleashed His spirit upon the world in a way that the whole earth can come to Him, not on our own power but on the power He provides as He devastates our helplessness and fear.
The grace of God also destroys our plans. I like my brother Shane Claiborne’s take on this. He says that so many people have a story about their life being all messed up and Jesus coming in and fixing it, but he felt like he had to it all together and figured out, but then Jesus came in and messed everything up. Isn’t that so true for so many of us? The Jews thought they had it all figured out with relation to religion and the coming Messiah, but boy did Jesus come and flip that upside down. Peter had his life laid out, like the other disciples. He was a fisherman; probably the trade of his father and his father’s father and on down the line. Then the Rabbi from the badlands came and shattered his notion of what his fishing career looked like. The same is true in my life. When I was younger I thought that I would play professional basketball, then as I started college I wanted to become a famous radio personality or TV commentator. Then Jesus, in his powerfully gentle, destroying manner, rocked my world and gave me a new direction. I now sit on a continent on the other side of the world in a city where no one looks like me or talks like me because this GodMan wrecked my plans in favor of His own. In the words of Brennan Manning, I was ambushed by Jesus of Nazareth.
I have already briefly touched on one of the characteristics of the life of Jesus, and God’s grace that I love the most; it obliterates social, ethnic, and gender lines. Scripture tells us that when we are baptized there are no longer male and female, slave and master, Jew and gentile, instead we all become the sons of God who stand to inherit His kingdom. The life of Jesus is constantly doing this as well. He runs the social totem pole through a shredder when he eats at the same table with tax collectors and whores, while preaching to the religious leaders and wealthy aristocrats. He talks with a half-breed enemy of the Jews, who also happens to be a woman, in the middle of the day; a taboo that can hardly be compared to anything in our modern context. He even destroys the controlling power of political ties. You have Simon the Zealot, the most liberal of liberals, and Matthew the tax collector, who would make Rush Limbaugh reconsider what it means to be conservative, following the Radical Rabbi. Simon’s job was to kill people like Matthew, but instead Jesus destroys yet another barrier and brings them together to be called His Apostles.
The grace of God also Massacres the lies of the enemy. From the beginning of time we have been lied to by the accuser, the great deceiver, but Jesus came to once and for all annihilate the lies we have been fed by being the very embodiment of Truth. When you hear that whisper in your ear that your not good enough, that your worthless, that you don’t have s shot in life, remember the destructive work of Jesus on the cross. Listen to his gentle voice, be wrapped up in his relentless tenderness, and watch as He decimates the lies that haunt your soul with the Truth of God’s destructive grace.
Those of us who have grown up in or around church have probably heard that sin leads to death but the gift of God is eternal life. I think this is true because the grace of God crushes sin and the death that results. The flowing blood of Calvary combined with the resurrection day not only conquered sin and death, but it took no prisoners, except those who chose to be in fettered with the chains of God’s love. In those sacrificial and redemptive acts, Jesus became sin for us. Although I cannot begin to explain the theological and philosophical implications of that statement, I do know that somehow, even mystically perhaps, Jesus becoming our sin somehow macerates its power over our lives when we surrender to His destructive grace.
Finally, the destructive grace of God breaks our hearts. It crushes the hearts of the proud and grinds them into powder. A powder that when mixed with flowing river of God’s love can be made into malleable clay which God reshapes into his beautiful image.
In the words of a song we sing at camp every year,
Break my heart dear God
Tear the Barriers Down
Show me in convicting tears
The glory of your crown
My heart is hard
My soul so weak
The ways of evil
Cut so deep
I need you Lord
To come inside
Break my heart
My sin is great
But I can see
The glory set
Show me Father
Where to start
And Gently Break
What has God broken, crushed, or destroyed in your life? What do you still need for him to come and obliterate, break, or mess up in your life with His destructive grace?