The Grace of God
A coworker talked behind your back. A perpetrator stole your security, your identity, your dignity and got away with it. Commonplace injustices all of these, but nearly impossible to simply forgive and forget, right?
Well-known pastor and popular speaker Andy Stanley agrees. He begins his latest book by admitting that grace is “what I crave most when my guilt is exposed.” Equally noted, however, are the strong emotions created by offences (like the above-named) and how they illustrate why grace is also “the very thing I’m hesitant to extend when I’m confronted with the guilt of others.”
Regrettably, the author never really helps us understand why. After an intriguing beginning, Stanley has little more to say about the ongoing struggle we face in replicating that which God has so magnificently done throughout history.
What the author does exceptionally well in The Grace of God is demonstrate how the God of the Bible, from the very first verses of Scripture, has been consistent in lavishing patience, mercy, and undeserved favour upon those he loves. Indeed, one of the purposes of the book is to refute the idea of the “split-personality” God: namely, that he is one way in the Old Testament (mean-spirited, judgmental), yet opposite (gentle, forgiving) in the New.
And, it’s not only the cheap-shot critics who think so. Even sincere readers, such as Stanley’s wife, wonder how the term gracious can honestly be applied to a deity responsible for flooding the whole earth. Who, on another occasion, instructs his people to lay waste to every living inhabitant of the captured city of Jericho. Is this the same God who, in the New Testament, is compared to a father waiting patiently at the edge of the drive for his rebel son to return home and make things right? Unquestionably, they are one and the same. Stanley challenges us to see a God throughout Scripture who is both terrifying and merciful, hater of evil and lover of people.
For instance, instead of thinking of the story of Noah as wholesale destruction, properly interpreted, we see the initiative of a divine caretaker choosing to clean up after people who had made a mess of creation. Or, consider the capture of Jericho, thought of by some as showcasing God as a “bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser.” Stanley looks back 650 years prior to the event to provide step-by-step vindication of God’s activity and to paint a picture of One who is painstakingly slow to judge and quick to deliver.
What Stanley reiterates throughout his book is that a careful analysis of the people and events of both Old and New Testaments demonstrate how “grace has been the basis of our relationship with our Creator from the very beginning.” And whereas living graciously will continue to be the primary relational struggle we face, we will never tire of hearing or reading about God’s eagerness to show us his love.