Putting amazing back into grace – part 3
Horton is definitely American. I’ve never made and sold lemonade, though I hear it’s a past time that many young American folk enjoy. The closest equivalent I could find when I looked back through the mists of time was making and selling rose petal perfume in re-used two litre cola bottles (note to self; revisit this in editing and change to something more manly – making dynamite or wrestling bears or some such thing. Definitely do not leave this in.).
Cultural differences aside, the rest of chapter three is universal. But not the nice kind of universal that Coca-Cola apparently dreams of as we all sing the country’s national anthem in our own tongue; different but smiley and drawn together in our variety. Horton’s (and fortunately) the Bible’s message is thus; We’re all in trouble. Not because of our actions, but because of who we are. It’s a situation that cannot be remedied by our own actions, even if we were so inclined to strive.
A bleak chapter then. Well, yes and no. The message of the universal fallenness of all men is both damning and liberating.
I don’t suppose I’m alone in being at once my own harshest critique and my most lenient judge. I am constantly aware of many of my failings (and likely unaware of so many more), and will waste no time in telling myself what a mess I am, mired in this sin entangled life as I am. And yet, in the next moment, when I consider the consequence of my sin and its most necessary and justified judgement, I am the first to lighten up; I’m not that bad. I’ve tried my best. There are worse than me.
As Horton states, there’s just no room for this kind of thinking in scripture. We’re not ‘good, but just a little messed up’, but rather sinners enslaved to our own rebellious will. We’re not simply tricked into sinning against our Creator, we are instead willingly strolling into our own shackled independence and calling it freedom.
We don’t need the Bible to tell us that there are some bad people in the world. We do perhaps, however, need the bible to tell us that we are bad people in the world. “There is only One who is good”, Jesus said in Matthew 19:17, and he wasn’t pointing at me when he said it. Or you.
So we find that God revealed in the Bible is serious about our sin. That we are enslaved to it, sinners by nature, and unable and unwilling to save ourselves from this predicament. Horton points to a number of religious, psychological, and sociological practices that man has engaged in through the years, most often with the aim of not so much dealing with the problem, but masking it, pretending it doesn’t exist, or even celebrating it as a good sign of our new found freedom. And yet, we all still feel that underlying guilt; that something isn’t right.
Harsh critic Phill and lenient judge Phill need to hear this. If we are to be freed from the constant cycles of trying to be good enough for God and failing, and from the falsehood that our sin doesn’t really matter that much anyway, we need, as Horton puts it, to “come to terms with our shame and guilt instead of running from the One with whom we have business”.