Misconception: Grace Is All We Need
*What you are about to read is Chapter 2 from my book, Grace Is A Dirty Word. I put this together as an ebook about 3 years ago. It was the first free download I ever offered on my blog. Recently I updated it and am making it available for free just a couple more weeks when you subscribe to my blog. After that, you can get it amazon after that in paperback or kindle.
Running to Extremes
Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. It’s true with queso and ice cream, as well as religion and grace.
When you have experienced too much of one thing, the temptation is to swing to the other extreme. Balance is the more appropriate response.
This pendulum swing is especially a problem for me because I am a man of extremes. For me, balance is going in every direction at full-speed at the same time.
Too Much Ice Cream
Have you ever noticed it becomes more socially acceptable to eat giant portions of ice cream at an ice cream parlor compared to someone’s home? They can scoop a whole pint onto your cone after you wait in line for it and no one bats an eye. Ask for more than one scoop after dinner only if you want people to be known as someone with no self-control.
On one of my first trips with ARC, there was a Ben-n-Jerry’s Ice Cream shop across from the hotel where we were staying. I did not know such a place of wonder existed. I thought Ben-n-Jerry’s decadent treats were only available in tiny proportions from the grocery store freezer section.
This was different. Mere footsteps away from my room was all the ice cream I could ever hope for. The unending possibilities enamored me. I wasn’t on a work trip. I was living in a fantasy world. The magnetic pull on my heart, mind, and soul – the very essence of my humanity, was undeniable.
There was some talk of going there after dinner, but I could not wait until then. What if by some travesty the group changed their mind and decided to go somewhere absolutely horrible, like a fat-free yogurt shop, instead? I was not willing to roll the dice and take such an unwarranted risk. So, I quickly unpacked, and then walked across the street to indulge in cold, creamy goodness before our meeting.
Now I could have gotten one scoop, but that would almost be an insult to Mr. Ben and the great gentleman that is known as Jerry. So, I got two scoops. One was a marvelous mound of peanut butter cup and the other a refreshing ball of mint chocolate chip. I couldn’t allow these spectacular creations to go unnoticed in a small paper cup either. They needed to be exalted on a pedestal of waffle dipped in chocolate and covered in sprinkles.
There couldn’t have been anyone happier in a 100-mile radius. I walked down the sidewalk, licking and holding up my hand-scooped gluttony in the air for all to see.
I had gone overboard for sure, but I wasn’t finished yet.
The group did decide to go to Ben-n-Jerry’s after our meeting, and I again got yet another scoop of ice cream.
The guilt was too much for me, and so I confessed my sugary sins to one of my co-workers. After telling him of my previous trip to the ice cream shop, he said, “Sounds like you have a problem with balance.”
You see, dedicating myself to eating broccoli for the rest of my life would not have solved my problem, because eating ice cream was not the issue. The real problem was that I was not able to enjoy ice cream in balance.
If you have come out of a controlling home or rigorous religious environment, then you may think that rules, religion, and commitment are the problem. Maybe you think grace is all you need.
If this is the case, then adding grace will not cure your sickness. You will just take grace to the extreme you once took your religion, rules, and commitments.
This was a temptation for me once I realized I had become out of balance with my religious commitments. Was grace all I needed?
Grace and Truth
The answer to that is as simple as looking at Jesus.
The Gospel of John has an excellent description of the Son of God:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:14
The only thing we really need is Jesus. He came in grace and truth. This is important because, in a day and age in the church when people are pitting grace and truth against each other, we need to understand that God put them together in His Son.
Grace and truth work together, not against each other. A lack of either would be the equivalent of a bird with only one wing. No matter how much you focus on making that one wing stronger, without the other, you are just going to crash and burn.
We can’t sit on the beach and eat ice cream all day, or we will grow overweight and unhealthy. We need moments of refreshing but should also remember our mission. God wants us to enjoy life, but life should never become about ourselves.
We need grace, and we also need truth. We need refreshing and also refocusing. The key is to find balance. Going to any extreme is simply unhealthy.