the radical absurdity of grace

One of my favorite bloggers is this woman in Canada named Stephanie who writes humor books about knitting (yes, there is such a genre) under the name “Yarn Harlot.” She’s irreligious, liberal, and a feminist, but I think she’s hilarious, and I’ve learned a lot about knitting from her. Anyway, she’s been getting cyber-harassed by someone in her comments and via e-mail, which is terrible to begin with, but said person has also claimed to be a Christian (which I seriously doubt, but oh well), which also sucks.

Anyway, there’s been a serious outpouring of love and support for Stephanie in her comments, which is great. But what bothers me about them is that some people have been saying that she, someone who doesn’t even like organized religion, is behaving more Christianly than her crazy stalker cyber-bully. Now, in some sense this is true: Christians are expected to behave in a manner befitting the calling to which we’ve been called, with humility and gentleness and patience, not attacking people irrationally (and see Ephesians 4). On the other hand, though, my great concern is that people view “being Christian” as “acting like a nice person”, which isn’t the whole case. A Christian, of course, isn’t just a nice person–there are plenty of virtuous Muslims and Buddhists and atheists, of course, and that’s great–but the truth of the matter is that Christ is the impetus for all of our kindness and graciousness, and in fact sometimes for what looks to the world like intolerance and harshness. A Christian isn’t a nice person; he or she is someone who is radically saved by grace, and is being made new.

C.S. Lewis says it a lot better than I can:

Suppose we have come down to brass tacks and are now talking not about an imaginary Christian and an imaginary non-Christian, but about two real people in our own neighbourhood….Christian Miss Bates may have an unkinder tongue than unbelieving Dick Firkin. That, by itself, does not tell us whether Christianity works. The question is what Miss Bates’s tongue would be like if she were not a Christian and what Dick’s would be like if he became one. Miss Bates and Dick, as a result of natural causes and early upbringing, have certain temperaments: Christianity professes to put both temperaments under new management if they will allow it to do so. What you have a right to ask is whether that management, if allowed to take over, improves the concern. Everyone knows that what is being managed in Dick Firkin’s case is much “nicer” than what is being managed in Miss Bates’s. That is not the point….

There is a paradox here. As long as Dick does not turn to God, he thinks his niceness is his own, and just as long as he thinks that, it is not his own. It is when Dick realises that his niceness is not his own but a gift from God, and when he offers it back to God–it is just then that it begins to be really his own. For now Dick is beginning to take a share in his own creation. The only things we can keep are the things we freely give to God. What we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose.

We must, therefore, not be surprised if we find among the Christians some people who are still nasty. There is even, when you come to think it over, a reason why nasty people might be expected to turn to Christ in greater numbers than nice ones. That was what people objected to about Christ during his life on earth: He seemed to attract “such awful people.” That is what people still object to, and always will (Mere Christianity, pp. 179, 181-82).

It’s no wonder that Jesus calls us to repent of our righteousness and our niceness, because only when we peel that off and understand how deep our depravity runs is when we know how deep and how radical grace is.

the radical absurdity of grace

so here’s the deal.

1. I haven’t written in a while because I honestly haven’t had anything to say, and I’d much rather give you guys something substantial every once in a while than fluff really frequently, so here I am.

2. I had some kind of crazy allergic reaction to something the other day, and have been on this medication that’s seriously messed with my head (and sleeping habits, to boot). On Saturday I had this strange meds-induced existential crisis and I got all ready to write up a big post about how I don’t know what I’m doing and I need to move back to Houston–but, no. It’s funny how much clarity one can get if you reduce your dosage and get some freaking sleep, already.

I have been really convicted lately, though, about how I need to walk more in obedience to what I already know from Scripture. There are a bunch of things I haven’t been doing that I know I should be doing–actively seeking community, using my talents, investing my time in helping others, talking about Jesus. I’ve pretty much trained myself not to do these things, and it’s honestly because I’m lazy and afraid of failure, so getting there is going to be a trip. But God is faithful, and He said He’d bring me there, and that gives me hope enough to get up off my butt to start doing something about it.

3. That all being said, I am actually looking at moving back to H-town after graduation, provided I can get a job there (which may or not be that hard to do), all things considered. The longer I’ve been away the longer I miss it and all the people I’ve come to know and love there. On the other hand, there’s part of me that, well, wants to go somewhere where I can attend seminary part-time (…actually, I think I can do that in Houston, too). Seriously.

Want to know something that I think I’ve only told one person? For the past few years, my big desire has been to be part of planting a church–not as the lead planter, obviously, seeing as how I’m not a guy and all*, but being on a team in some capacity. I don’t know why, but I kind of want some theological and counseling training to maybe prep for that, if that’s in fact what God has in store for me. Maybe I’m nuts. Or maybe not. Pray for me. We’ll see what happens. 🙂

(*Some of my more, um, progressive brothers and sisters might be okay with my being a lead planter, but honey, I’m Reformed. That is not how we roll.)

4. Also, this is weird, but my reading’s kind of dropped off this year. This time last year I’d read maybe twice as much as I have by now, and I have no idea what the difference is. Trying to remedy that, but we’ll see.

5. That’s all I have, except:

so here’s the deal.

mix tape monday

Another round of pick an artist, give us your favorites by them. Mine, this time, is Patty Griffin:

1. “Love Throw A Line” (Impossible Dream)

2. “Chief” (1000 Kisses)

3. “Trapeze” (Children Running Through)

4. “Heavenly Day” (Children Running Through)

5. “Long Ride Home” (1000 Kisses)

6. “Useless Desires” (Impossible Dream)

7. “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)” (Children Running Through)

8. “Top of the World” (Impossible Dream)

9. “When it Don’t Come Easy” (Impossible Dream)

10. “Rain” (1000 Kisses)

11. “Nobody’s Crying” (1000 Kisses)

12. “Mary” (Flaming Red)

13. “Be Careful” (1000 Kisses)

mix tape monday

music check

First one since, oh, March. Figure we’re due. You know the drill.

1. Jake Shimabukuro, “3rd Stream”
2. Guns ‘n Roses, “Paradise City”
3. Derek Webb, “Beloved” (wow, there’s a juxtaposition for you)
4. David Elder, “Dames”
5. Sonya Kitchell, “For Every Drop”
6. Wilco, “Jesus, Etc.”
7. The Temptations, “My Girl”
8. Cadet, “The First Noel”
9. Say Anything, “Alive With the Glory of Love”
10. U2, “Dirty Day”
11. Original Broadway Cast, “The First Attack”
12. Rufus Wainwright, “Across the Universe (Remix)”
13. People You Meet, “solar”
14. The Khrusty Brothers, “Sympathy For Jesus”
15. Caedmon’s Call, “Not the Land”
16. Sean Watkins, “Cammac”
17. The Weepies, “Antarctica”
18. Sandra McCracken, “No More Tears”

music check