I meant what I said. I was genuinely happy to see his joy in Christ. His face was like many I've seen before rising from the waters of baptism into a new life. The Holy Spirit was definitely doing something in his life.
But there's a risk. We desire structure and order, so we invent religious traditions. Yet we have an inner conflict to rebel, so cheap grace is an easy temptation. Not all grace is cheap of course. But there is a risk to worshiping grace rather than the giver of that grace. We easily turn blessings into idols- our families, financial prosperity. If you don't believe me, look no further than the story of Isaac and Abraham. Isaac wasn't just a blessing, he was an answered prayer, a miracle announced by an angel! And God needed Abraham to prove that he hadn't become an idol.
I thought of this as Brennan Manning was describing God's unconditional love and how we have such a hard time grasping the concept. This comes on the heels of Manning discussing "union" with God as His ultimate desire, so unconditional love is the means to that end. Yet how easily we twist it such that God's unconditional love becomes the means to unlimited, cheap, grace. Manning writes,
"Unconditional love as a concept has transported me to intellectual nirvana, motivated the reading of at least fifty books on related themes, and deluded me into believing that I was there. Until along came a day when I was appalled to discover that nothing had changed...
Until the love of God that knows no boundary, limit, or breaking point is internalized through personal decision; until the furious longing of God seizes the imagination; until the heart is conjoined to the mind through sheer grace, nothing happens." (pgs 74-75)
Nothing changed. Nothing happened. Why? Because we confuse God's unconditional love as Him showering blessing upon blessing on us rather than His desiring to be with us. How hard we try to ascend to the level of Jesus, forgetting that he forsook all to come down to our level.
As I was reading this chapter, I made this note: Unconditional love is not giving your child unlimited undeserved gifts on Christmas morning- that would be spoiling. No, unconditional love is even after your child misbehaves you get down on your knees to and play with those gifts together.
It is Jesus, loving us as we are where we are, that brings about change. That is unconditional love.
This post continues discussion on Brennan Manning's book, The Furious Longing of God. Please check out Jason Sasyzsen's and Sarah Salter's blogs for more discussion. The "consider this" questions come straight from the book- use them as a springboard for your own thoughts and feel free to share them here.