Recently I read Philip Yancy’s memoir, “Where the light fell”. Yancey’s latest work is about growing up in a family and church environment, devoid of grace, mostly angry, cruel, and self-righteous. The memoir is a painful read, until the near end, when Yancey, while a student, surprisingly meets Jesus. Yancy describes this moment as not quite a vision, but very real. It was a Christ of love and grace meeting him for the first time. And from that point in time Philip Yancy begins to set aside his toxic family and church life, to understand and receive God’s grace. As exhibited in many of Yancy’s writings, this discovery of grace occurred despite the abuse he suffered in home and in his church.
In small way, the memoir reminded me of once being a jaded Bible College senior, wondering what in this church culture was truly from Christ, honoring of God, and what was a fabrication, not of Christ, and an obstacle to knowing Christ in a deeper and deeper way. During a year of sorting that all out, the only path was to know Christ more, and have the courage to set aside what was not of Christ. Like Yancy, C.S. Lewis and Bonhoeffer became my guides, and as time went on Eugene Peterson, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Foster. There was so much more to Jesus Christ than my church culture had led me to believe. The spiritual paradox I pondered was that Jesus gave His own light to see Him more clearly and deeply like He had a flashlight on a video camera pointing to Himself. And to paraphrase Bonhoeffer, the words of Scripture are the objective Word of God, but then the Holy Spirit speaks to us from Scripture, and the Word becomes the Word to us. It is a bit liking stepping out of the darkness and walking deeper into the light.
Once I was accused of preaching too much about grace. The accusation went something like this: “No matter what passage you preach from, you always get back to God’s grace and accepting Christ.” All preachers have hobby horses. But something about my Bible College experience, left me with a concern, that if we lose Grace, we have lost the Gospel, and we damage our relationship with Christ and with other people. Christ's light illumines His grace. Our comfortable darkness abets our not comprehending the Light, and we obstruct the receiving of God’s grace and truth. Even when we believe, the light sometimes get put under bushel, and we believe grace is a limited commodity.
During Advent, I read Luke and John together. I am reminded that Christ is totally God and totally human. One Gospel speaks of the fleshly Christ born to a virgin in stable and greeted by uncouth shepherds, but heralded by angels. The other Gospel speaks to us about the eternal, infinite, yet veiled Christ. And from this Christ flows, like a mountain cascade, grace upon grace to every person who will receive welcome light and grace, and Christ Himself.
If people on the fringes of the light, or stumbling in the darkness to see the Grace in God’s people and in Christ’s Church, where will they see it?
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