“See to it that no one misses the grace of God . . .”
Have we believers in Jesus turned his gospel—the good news—into bad news? And once spoiled, can the good news ever sound good again?
That’s what Philip Yancey asks us in his newest book Vanishing Grace. And it’s what he’s asking in person as he tours America.
I heard him speak in Opelika, Alabama, last month. Here’s what he told us there and in his book:
Jesus came full of grace and truth. We’ve done the truth part. Now let’s compete just as hard to be full of grace as we are of truth.
Because too often, “we’re perceived more as guilt dispensers than as grace dispensers.” To outsiders. And even to others in the church.
That’s bad news. And it’s time we turn that around.
How? Yancey looked around for examples of people good at giving grace. He saw primarily three kinds of Christians that outsiders to the faith still listen to:
Pilgrims view themselves as travelers on a journey, ordinary and authentic people who try to follow Jesus, but realize they don’t do it perfectly. Any sense of superiority is eliminated. They view non-believers as thirsty, “not as opponents, but as seekers who are still looking.” (Think of Brennan Manning as an example of a pilgrim.)
Activists progress from hand (practical acts of mercy) to heart (expressing love) to head (beliefs), not the reverse order that alienates a suspicious culture. “A skeptical world judges the truth of what we say by the proof of how we live.” (Think of Bono of U2 and his missions of mercy around the world.)
Artists awaken thirst by coming in through a side door—through music or art or literature, for example. Yancey said that “they’re like cats, hard to control, so the church doesn’t know what to do with them. But they sneak in messages at a different level.” (Think of Victor Hugo with Les Misérables.)
In his book Yancey gives many examples of how to give grace through these avenues, as well as others. He quotes from a variety of sources. And he inspires from his own enthusiastic value of grace.
He suggests along with sociologist James Davison Hunter that we abandon . . .
“our talk of redeeming culture and transforming the world, because such language implies conquest and takeover. Instead, Hunter proposed a different goal, to maintain ‘a faithful presence within’ the surrounding culture, best demonstrated by an example of sacrificial love.”
Be a faithful presence within the culture. We can do that, right?
And so I highly recommend this book (and Yancey’s book tour) to all believers who need encouragement to be grace dispensers in a world athirst for grace.
We don’t have to force the thirst on others; we just need awaken to it. And find ways to quench it with the satisfying grace of God.
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Where have you seen grace lately? Please share in the comments.
More from Vanishing Grace:
My thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the review copy of this book
- What I’m into in December ’14
- Your voice is a divine gift