Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I’ve started reading “What’s So Amazing about Grace” by Philip Yancey. Yancey is a (former?) editor at Christianity Today. The book was recommended to me by the teacher of my basic lay speaking class. Yancey is pretty conservative theologically, but I’m finding that I am really enjoying the book. I haven’t finished it yet, so I can’t tell you exactly what Yancey thinks is so amazing about grace. So far it seems to me that his message is that a lot of churches, especially many of the evangelical/fundamentalist flavor (his background), are missing the point of grace. They’ve created environments where the people who are the most in need of grace don’t feel comfortable. People who are in pain may feel too unworthy to come to church. Certainly many mainline protestant churches have created similar environments.

This made me think of a book I read called “Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity” by Bruce Bawer. Bawer has some issues with the Episcopal church which take away from his message to some extent, but most of the book is really well researched and very informative. One of the most interesting points Bawer makes is to argue that there are two broad categories of churches/doctrines in the US. He calls them the churches of love versus the churches of law. He argues that the “church of law” doctrine (fundamentalism) misses the point of Jesus’ ministry and misunderstands grace. Read the book for more details.

What strikes me while reading “What’s So Amazing about Grace?” is that while Bawer’s distinction between love and law is important, it’s just as easy for non-legalistic Christians to miss out on grace. When we have churches where you need to dress a certain way to feel comfortable, or be a particular color, or be in a particular social class to be welcome are we really sharing the grace and joy of God? It’s easy to be self-congratulatory about our inclusiveness and the loving nature of our pleasantly middle-class congregations, but how much are we willing to really reach out to the community? My church is certainly dealing with this issue – we strive to be welcoming, and I think we are. But it’s not really that hard when pretty much everyone who comes in the door looks and acts like us. I guess I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I hope that when our church is tested, we’ll be open and welcoming to everyone and enthusiastic about sharing the grace of God.



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