“Grace. Grace. God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all my sin.”
Grace will always be debated and I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for greater minds than mine wrestling out the deeper truths of all the big stuff, the multiple point scrabble words like justification and sanctification and mortification, and I “listen” in with my ESV online bible at the ready, sifting out the stuff I can comprehend.
But it occurs to me that in some ways the debate seems to become about how saved you have to be to be saved. As if salvation is a ladder, you’re on the ladder but you have to climb the ladder to really be on the ladder, and to prove you’re really on the ladder to everyone who is watching and guarding the ladder. And some people are more on the ladder than others.
I’m reminded of the example, that shows up a few times in scripture, of adoption. It’s a good analogy and I feel like I can talk to it better than those who haven’t been adopted.
Adoption for one thing isn’t earned. I didn’t have any say in getting adopted or in getting picked. And it had nothing to do with my behavior because I was 6 months old, and from what I understand, a fairly average achieving 6 month old.
Adoption is permanent. I didn’t earn it, so I can’t unearn it. I am legally bound to my legal parents and vice versa. If nothing else is ever done to reneg it, my adoption will stand for all time.
Adoption is equally legally binding as “naturally born” children. There are some I’m sure who want to contest this and ignorant sorts will try. I’m just as much her daughter as if I came directly out of Audrey’s womb. There can be tension amongst family members when it comes to who really belongs. It’s all hogwash.
I have a name. Well, now I have a middle name because I shifted my maiden name when I got married. (Marriage, not so incidentally, is also a great analogy.)
Because I now have that name, I am compelled to uphold the reputation of that name, honor it, and carry it like a banner. Do I have to? Will I be shunned and disowned if I don’t? Depending on the family, maybe. In God’s family, no.
And much like adoption, grace starts out with a need. I am an orphan in need of a family. A family comes and meets that need. They raise me as their own, give me a home, a name, a purpose. I am given opportunities I wouldn’t have had. I am rich, if not in money, in love and caring. And if all goes well, I grow up, mature, and build a life of my own so I can also have a family and contribute back to my world.
But then the part about proving your worth starts to eat away at the adoption analogy. Do I have to prove to the world that I am grateful? I sound ungrateful just asking that out loud. (Survivor guilt is a whole ‘nother blog post.)
And what does maturity look like? When it comes to our spiritual journey, I have learned that maturity means being more dependent, more aware of my total lack of ability, a recognition of my proclivity to screw things up, more in desperate need of a savior who carries me all my days.
Being adopted moves me to gratitude and to live a life that is honorable and noble, not just for my family’s namesake, though that’s certainly a good factor. It also spurs me on to expand that good name, making it my own and giving it my unique Robin-ness to the family name. I’d like to think I’ve done that in my years. I’d like to think I will continue to.
Being adopted in Christ has the same effect. I carry His good name with me. I’m not earning the name. It’s mine. There is an indescribable freedom in that.
Conversely, I’m not unearning the name or chipping away at it with my sinfulness. I’m adopted. Not very adopted, nor just barely adopted. And God doesn’t do foster care, as great as that is in the real world. He has given us an indelible grace, the kind that cannot be removed, and claims our hearts for all time. There is also a beautiful, undeserved freedom in that.
We know God is love. The reform types have to add the truth and the holiness aspect or they feel we are missing something. Maybe that’s because we have defined love wrong. Maybe it’s because we use our human standards of love as if they were God’s. Love – actual real true love – IS God. Is God not holy and true and just? If simple logic stands, then love includes truth and justice and holiness. We are quick to combat the gushy mushy stuff because we think that if we “just” say God is love, then that is what God’s love means. It doesn’t. It never has and never will. And if we start out with real people – the lost, lonely, despairing, poor, sick and sorrowful – with terms of holiness and getting our act together, we’ve missed out on the love that meets us, that runs out to us from a long way off, and throws His arms around us, all of us, dirty, tired, sinful, diseased and hungry as we are.
We forget, so very often, it is His kindness that leads to repentance, to turn around, to seek after His love that compels us forward to grow and understand more and more. We try in some ways to put the cart before the horse, thinking that you get the name when you deserve the name, or at the very least jump through the hoops preordained by … well, that’s the question, isn’t it? What are the hoops and who is managing them?
I have to keep returning to His kindness. It is, after all, rare and startling. It isn’t just urban revitalization where some rich dudes pour some money from afar and make something shiny and new again. It is moving in, becoming a great neighbor, giving freely and lavishly, opening your home and inviting any and all to live there. (Urban renewal is also another post for another day.) But it’s the love of a neighbor that really sticks with me. When we truly struggle with the concept of His love, we won’t be able to stop growing. He stops being just a neighbor and becomes family.
Oh to love you more.