Chapter OneI MUST ADMIT
, it took me a while to warm up to the idea of someone
messing with my book! As I thought about it, though, I realized that people encounter
grace in ways other than words. As I have written, I experienced grace first through nature,
music, and romantic love, and only later found words to interpret and express what I
had felt. Why not let some very skilled designers select passages from my book and
interpret them visually? (Okay, I secretly hope that if you like this book you'll look up
the full-text version of What's So Amazing About Grace?
It may seem boring in contrast to
this edition, but it may also fill in some gaps.)
Almost a million copies of my book have been sold, which says something about
our thirst for grace. I have received thousands of letters from readers, some grateful,
some desperate, some furious. One of my favorites thanks me profusely for my bookWhat's So Annoying About Grace? I'm sure, from the tone of the letter, that the reader meant
to write "Amazing" and typed "Annoying" by mistake. Many other letters, however, come
from readers who truly do find grace annoying.
Must we forgive everyone? Shouldn't people have to pay for their mistakes?
Would God forgive Saddam Hussein or Hitler? What about justice and fairness? How
can you keep people from taking advantage of grace? These are some of the questions
readers have tossed back at me. I imagine some readers will find this visual edition even
more annoying because it presents the scandal of grace more directly, more "in your face."
I cannot claim that grace is fair. By definition, it's unfair: We get the opposite
of what we deserve. I wrote my book to make a simple point, the same point a slave trader
named John Newton made several centuries ago. Grace is amazing-the most amazing,
perplexing, powerful force in the universe, I believe, and the only hope for our twisted,
violent planet. If you catch a mere whiff of its scent, it could change your life forever.
"JESUS GAINED the POWER
to love harlots, bullies, and ruffians .
he was able to do this only because he saw
through the filth and crust of degeneration,
because his eye caught the divine
original which is hidden in every way-in
every man! . First and foremost he gives
us new eyes.
LOVED a guilt-laden person and helped
him, he saw in him an erring child of God.
He saw in him a human being whom his
Father loved and grieved over because he
was going wrong. He saw him as God
originally designed and meant him to be,
and therefore he saw through the surface
layer of grime and dirt to the real man
"JESUS DID NOTidentify the person with his sin, but rather
saw in this sin something alien, something
that really did not belong to him, something
that merely chained and mastered
him and from which he would free him
and bring him back to his real self. Jesus
was able to love men because he loved
them right through the layer of mud."
A PERSON means to see him as God
intended him to be."-FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY
A U.S. DELEGATE to the Baptist World Alliance
Congress in Berlin in 1934 sent back this report of what
he found under Hitler's regime: "It was a great relief to
be in a country where salacious sex literature cannot be
sold; where putrid motion pictures and gangster films
cannot be shown. The new Germany has burned great
masses of corrupting books and magazines along with its
bonfires of Jewish and communistic libraries." The same
delegate defended Hitler as a leader who did not smoke
or drink, who wanted women to dress modestly, and
who opposed pornography.
It is all too easy to point fingers at German Christians
of the 1930s, southern fundamentalists in the 1960s, or
South African Calvinists of the 1970s. What sobers me is
that contemporary Christians may someday be judged as
harshly. What trivialities do we obsess over, and what
weighty matters of the law-justice, mercy, faithfulness-might
we be missing? DOES GOD CARE MORE
about nose rings or about urban decay? Grunge music or
world hunger? Worship styles or a culture of violence?
Author Tony Campolo, who makes a regular circuit
as a chapel speaker on Christian college campuses, for a
time used this provocation to make a point. "The United
Nations reports that over ten thousand people starve to
death each day, and most of you don't give a shit. However,
what is even more tragic is that most of you are
more concerned about the fact that I just said a bad word
than you are about the fact that ten thousand people are
going to die today." The responses proved his point: in
nearly every case Tony got a letter from the chaplain or
president of the college protesting his foul language. The
letters never mentioned world hunger.
Not long ago I received in the mail a postcard from a friend that had
on it only six words, "I am the one Jesus loves." I smiled when I saw the
return address, for my strange friend excels at these pious slogans.
When I called him, though, he told me the slogan came from the author
and speaker Brennan Manning. At a seminar, Manning referred to
Jesus' closest friend on earth, the disciple named John, identified in the
Gospels as "the one Jesus loved." Manning said, "If John were to be
asked, 'What is your primary identity in life?' he would not reply, 'I am
a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,'
but rather, 'I am the one Jesus loves.'"
What would it mean, I ask myself, if I too came to the place where
I saw my primary identity in life as "the one Jesus loves"? How
differently would I view myself at the end of the day?
Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become
what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.)
thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible's
astounding words about God's love for me, if I looked in the mirror and
saw what God sees?
Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking
tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the
road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, "You must be very
close to God." The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment,
and then smiles, "Yes, he's very fond of me."
The one Jesus loves.
IN CHURCH THE OTHER SUNDAY I was intent on a
small child who was turning around smiling at everyone.
He wasn't gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the
hymnals, or rummaging through his mother's handbag.
He was just smiling. Finally, his mother jerked him about
and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theatre
off Broadway said, "Stop that grinning! You're in church!"
With that, she gave him a belt and as the tears rolled down his
cheeks added, "That's better," and returned to her prayers
Suddenly I was angry. It occurred to me the entire world
is in tears, and if you're not, then you'd better get with it.
I wanted to grab this child with the tear-stained face close
to me and tell him about my God. The happy God. The
smiling God. The God who had to have a sense of humor
to have created the likes of us . By tradition, one wears faith
with the solemnity of a mourner, the gravity of a mask of
tragedy, and the dedication of a Rotary badge.
What a fool, I thought. Here was a woman sitting next to
the only light left in our civilization-the only hope, our only
miracle-our only promise of infinity. If he couldn't smile in
church, where was there left to go? -Erma Bombeck
J3:16 & 17
For God loved the world so much that he gave his
only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may
not die but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to be
its Judge, but to be its Savior.