For a long time, I’ve wanted to read this Christian classic (by Jimmy Carter’s favorite author), and have finally done it. It is amazing how relevant the political issues discussed still are today after more than two decades: race, homosexuality, abortion, separation (or not) of church and state.
All those years ago Phillip Yancey saw the writing on the wall for the present day political agenda of right wing fundamentalists, and in this bestselling book tried to stem the tide. We now know his foreshadowing was right. Unfortunately, it did not make the needed difference, and they did not heed his council or warnings. I did appreciate his attempt to get them to focus instead on what Jesus expressly said were issues, no matter how unheeded it has been.
However, as NOT an evangelical, I took issue with this author linking grace up only with sin. I think we all receive grace regardless of where we are at any given moment on the righteousness/sin spectrum. Because of too much harping on how much we sinners need (and have) grace, I can only give this well written book four stars. Did God create man capable of sinning and then send grace as a panacea for it? The first chapter of Genesis says God created man in His/Her image, and as very good. Was grace absent then?
There are some great bits in What’s So Amazing About Grace, though, and here are the ones that stood out to me:
- “Guilt was not my problem as I felt it. What I felt most was a glob of unworthiness that I could not tie down to any concrete sins I was guilty of. What I needed more than pardon was a sense that God accepted me, owned me, held me, affirmed me, and would never let go of me even if he was not too much impressed with what he had on his hands.” Lewis Smedes in Shame and Grace
- “The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law– each offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”
- “Like a visitor from a foreign country who notices what the natives overlook, Jesus saw grace everywhere.”
- “The problem of pain meets its match in the scandal of grace.”
- “We receive grace as a gift from God, not as something we toil to earn.”
- “Grace is the best he can wish them, because grace is the best he himself ever received.” Frederick Buechner
- “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more… and grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”
- “Grace, however, is not about fairness.”
- “The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative.”
- “Which carries a higher cost, forgiveness or unforgiveness?”
- “Rung by rung, Jesus dismantled the ladder of hierarchy that had marked the approach to God.”
- “We’re all oddballs, but God loves us anyhow.”
- “We are to administer, or “dispense” grace…”
- “Some Christians I know have taken on the task of “moral exterminator” for the evil infested society around them. I share a deep concern for our society. I am struck, though, by the alternate power of mercy as demonstrated by Jesus. …Jesus never countenanced evil, but he did stand ready to forgive it.”
- “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love least.” Dorothy Day
- “‘ I have learned the distinction between virtuous grief and guilty grief,’ he once told me. ‘Both are real, both are excruciating, but the latter is far worse.'”
- “‘Well,’ the mother answered in a sweet, quavery voice, ‘he may be an abomination, but he’s still our pride and joy.'”
- “Unless a flaw comes to light, it cannot be healed.”
- “the sense of sin is the measure if a soul’s awareness of God.” (??)
- “I once read that proportionally the surface of the earth is smoother than a billiard ball. The heights of Mount Everest and the troughs of the Pacific Ocean are very impressive to those of us who live on this planet. But from the view of Andromeda, or even Mars, those differences matter not at all. That is how I see the petty behavioral differences between one Christian group and another. Compared to the holy and perfect God, the loftiest Everest of rules amounts to a molehill. You cannot earn God’s acceptance by climbing; you must receive it as a gift.”
- “”The public image of the evangelical church today is practically defined by an emphasis on two issues that Jesus did not even mention.”
- “As Gordon MacDonald said, the world can do anything the church can do except one thing: it cannot show grace.” (Hummm… I see the world show grace all the time.)
- “Jesus declared that we should have but one distinguishing mark: not political correctness or moral superiority, but love.”
- “”Power without love is reckless and abusive, said Martin Luther KingJr. ‘Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.””
- “The ladder of power reaches up, the ladder of grace reaches down.”
- “I try to recall this spirit of Jesus when I encounter someone whom I morally disapprove. This must be a very thirsty person, I tell myself.”
- “Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.”
Thank goodness grace abounds for everyone, without exception.