I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. – Galatians 1:6-7
Wednesday evening I was very happy to get back together with my mid-week men’s group. Not just to hang out together on Zoom and catch up, but to listen to one another’s hearts, to open up our souls a little, and to be encouraged as men doing our best to live as followers of Jesus.
We started a new study, and will be reading through the book of Galatians together. Galatians is an interesting document, a letter that grapples with ideas that developed as formative to the emerging understanding of what faith in Jesus looks like, the early articulations of what became known as “Christianity.”
This is why Paul expresses his concern, from the very beginning of the letter, that the lynchpin of Christ’s teaching is being undermined. He reminds the people that they – that we – have been called to live in the grace of Christ. The gospel, the good news, of Jesus is – at the heart of the matter – God’s grace!
Religion without grace:
To me this is a timely conversation, because religion without grace is in my estimation a key reason The Church seems to have lost its place at the table when it comes to important national conversations. Not only that, but poll after poll is documenting the rejection of “organized religion” in the lives of an increasing percentage of Americans.
We had a great conversation and – as per usual – ideas and inspirations continued to flow through my heart, mind, and soul over the ensuing hours. Then this morning, walking Max while the coffee was brewing, Don Henley’s 1989 song, The Heart of the Matter, made its way to the front of my mind.
Listen to these words from the third stanza:
These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age? (Don Henley)
“A Graceless Age.”
I believe on so many levels that we live in a graceless age. I know that sounds disheartening (and it is) but we do not live as people without hope. Because the best and only way to defeat gracelessness is via the introduction of what is missing, and grace happens to be the most definitive characteristic of authentic Christianity. Paul went to bat for grace at the very beginning because, as he wrote, a gospel without grace “is really no gospel at all.”
We, then, are called to be people of grace.
Martin Luther helped articulate the essential idea of what became The Protestant Reformation when he caught hold of grace. Grace became Luther’s – and Reformed Christianity’s – wheelhouse.
Grace is what we have; it is who we are as Christians. Without it our faith is – quite simply – not rooted in Jesus.
In love, and because love is not complete without grace – DEREK