“Is grace confusing?” I think it is. Let me rephrase.
Perhaps I should say, “I am confused by God’s grace.” God's grace itself is not confusing. Nope, not at all. God chooses to love sinners. That's grace in a nutshell. God chooses to love sinners not because they are lovable. Certainly not because sinners make themselves lovable.
God chooses to love sinners because, well, God chooses to love sinners. It is His choice.
Can we agree to that? His choice? His choice.
God chooses to love and, lo and behold, He chooses to love sinners. God works out the details of His choice in such a way that totally satisfies His holiness and, in the process, the sinner is made holy.
Now ... I wouldn't have thought of that.
Staying holy and making holy. All in the service of a choice to love a person so utterly unholy. (me, for example) But that's what God wanted to do. That's what God did.
Where grace confuses is not, surprisingly, in the details. One would think the details would be confusing; they usually are. Yet thousands, yea verily, tens of thousands of terminal academic degrees have been earned mining the details of grace. People have picked apart the details for millennia. Literal tons of tomes have been written unpacking the details.
- Imputed righteousness.
- Forensic justification.
- The tension of past and future forgiveness.
The list of details goes on and on and on, like a trail path disappearing into a darkening forest.
And it's not that the details are unimportant. They are important! Those details reveal the depth, breadth, height and scope of the larger picture of God’s grace. Becoming familiar with the details makes us more comfortable, more certain of the wonder of God's grace.
But we are not saved by details.
We are saved and we live by God’s grace alone. The center of God’s grace to me—a sinner, surely!—is not a detail unearthed through torturous theological struggle. At it’s essence, God’s grace to me is His choice to love me.
Why would He love me? The confusion lies with me, not with God.
I know I am not worthy of His love. I know it in my bones. I know it as surely as I breathe. The only way I can even imagine (falsely!) my own love-a-bility is the fantasy where God loves me because I'm better than the person standing next to me ... all the time ... every day ... always better.
And that's not happening. Not for a year, a week or a second. 'Cause I know I'm not better. The fantasy bubble bursts in my self-awareness. If I were God, I would not love me. God does not evaluate me by looking at the other person. God judges me by Himself. By His own holiness. I'm not standing next to a person working on being comparatively lovable. I'm laid bare before the eternally pure, alien righteousness of Holy God. This can only end one way.
Knowing what you know about you - come on, be honest, no one else knows as much about you as you - ask yourself a question. "How do I stack up against God's against pure and unapproachable holiness?" No fudging. No qualifications. Just answer the question. Are you as lovely as God? As pure? As holy?
No, didn't think so. Me neither.
Why would God make such a choice? That's the confusing part. That's the part I don't understand; can't wrap my mind around. What's in it for Him? He is no less God if I reject Him. He's still God and I'm still a sinner. The ocean is still the ocean even if I never swim in it. Gravity is still gravity if I walk off a mountain cliff.
My rejection of His love for me in no way diminishes Him.
God is no more God if I embrace Him. He doesn't become more God if I love Him. A pure gold ingot is not more gold because I hold it. Air is not more air because I breathe it. Yielding to God's love, accepting it, treasuring it, does not change God. He's still the same God. But I enter a vastly richer life when I glory in the wonder of God's love.
(Which, by the way, God wanted all along.)
God chooses to love me. It's His decision. He wants to love me. He wills to love me. He worked out the details. Really, He took out the guess work, any uncertainty whatsoever. God - praise His holy name - is not at all confused by His grace towards me.
My "confusion" about grace is not really confusion at all. God is not confused. No, not confusion but a struggle to let go of my pride.
"Pride," you say?
Yes, pride. Pride, as in, "I am unwilling to let God make His own choice regarding His own love, who receives it and how it is applied. Knowing what I know about God and knowing what I know about me, I wouldn't love me ... if I were God."
You're not God. I'm not God.
Grace is God's choice - mysterious to me but urgent to Him - to love me. So, am I willing to let God be God and make His own choice?