Friday, April 14, 2017

Scandalous Grace: Some Thoughts about Good Friday.

A friend loaned me her extra copy of "Geography of Grace - Doing Theology From Below" by Kris Rocke & Joel Van Dyke about a week ago.  I have to admit, I struggled to get through the first half, but because I knew she has similar passions as I do, I persevered through and it did not disappoint!

Here, I came across another thought about The Prodigal Son story (so many lessons!) that has stumped me - in a good way.  Rocke & Van Dyke explain that in these verses of Luke 15, the Father continually shames Himself.  Ewe - really?  Tell me more, and why this is a good thing?  I do not know that I want a God who shames Himself.  Or, do I?
Here's where we see it; He lets his youngest son have his inheritance before He dies.  He runs out to welcome him after the son's betrayal.  He even throws him - the one who turned on Him - a party.  In the context of the culture that this was happening in, this behavior is embarrassing - shameful.  (Yes, the use of capital "H" is intentional)

God seems to do this often, and it is because He is desperate to be one with the people He loves (Simone Weil).  Looking at the Father running towards His son in this photo, we see this.   Marcus Dods, in his book, "Footsteps in the Path of Life", says that God's purpose is to come closer and closer into fellowship with His people and draw them into perfect harmony with Him.  Looking at the other photo of the Father holding onto His son, we see the desire of the Father's heart satisfied.

The parallel to Good Friday?  It is His ultimate display of taking on shame.  God experienced the agony of tearing apart beyond all other agonies in order to display the marvel of His love.  For if He can take what has been torn apart this severely and melt it back into one, He can experience pure and heart-rending harmony with those He loves. (Simone Weil)

"He was despised and rejected - we esteemed him not - we considered him stricken by God - he was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth - He was assigned a grave with the wicked...". (from Isaiah 53)   

"So Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped.  The soldiers, having braided a crown from thorns, set it on his head, threw a purple robe over him, and approached him with "Hail, King of the Jews!.  Then they greeted him with slaps in the face." (John 19:1-3)

This idea of taking on shame because of the enormity of His desire to be one with His people allows me to see how much He loves the woman at the well - and David when he slept with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed - and Cain when He killed his brother.  Love like this is Scandalous Grace - it is absurd - because He loves and protects and forgives them regardless of what they have done.

Scandalous Grace also shows me that He desperately loves and wants to be one with the man who stood across from me telling me that he no longer loved me.  And He wants to be with the boss who treated me as if I were a mindless slave instead of an intern.  And He desperately wants to be in fellowship with the child who yells "NO" straight to my face, and the one who decides that it is okay to do what everyone else was doing, regardless of what I have taught her -  and the one who tells me that I have ruined her life.

Scandalous Grace chases after ME when I chose to give myself away earlier than He wanted me to - when I drank more or ate more or judged others instead of turning to Him because I thought that was going to make me happier - when I belittled and looked down on my friends and family - when I turned away from the one who was hurting, smelled bad, or simply required too much of my time.

We are purposefully left with a cliff-hanger at the end of the Prodigal Son story.  We assume that the oldest son thinks this grace to be too scandalous to buy into.  But it really doesn't say if he will end up joining the party for his younger brother or if he will choose to remain judgemental and bitter.  We have this decision as well.  

If he understands that his Father will do anything to be in perfect harmony with His children, he can let go of his judgemental spirit and freely join the celebration - he can delight in the fattened calf and all of the festivities that go along with it - not comparing himself to anyone else - and live in the freedom of knowing he has been loved beyond anything he could have done that could separate him from His Father.

When we allow the Good Friday message to melt us into union with God, we can show scandalous grace to others.  We can love those who have hurt us.  We can go to the margins and not care what others think of us.  There is no longer a desire to climb the ladder.  We can run after those who have no one running after them, the outcast, the prisoner - because we have finally understood what "It is finished" (John 19:30) means.  He has done all He could to show us how much He loves and wants to be with us.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

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