[Note: This is Part III of a triptych on 主恩. Click here for part one.]
Remembering God’s grace is always refreshing.
Puisque Tout Tourne Autour du Moi (“Reprint” of a Xanga Post)
After my reading Book II of Plato’s Republic, it seems to me that if God is not perfectly just, there is no compelling reason for man to be just or upright at all, if he can appear to be just, apart from the effects of disapproval from other, likewise hypocritical men who are fearful of losing their reputation of justice. Now Glaucus does posit that fear of suffering injustice from others is a reason for acting justly, I presume because not all are equally skilled in executing injustice and profiting from it. As long as there are any who act in a remotely just manner, though, they are foolish for being the ones who can most easily be taken advantage of. Even if there is a god but not a perfectly holy one,
[…] Men who do wrong, and sin,
Can thus dissuade [gods] from their purposes
With fair entreaty or with sacrifice,
With incense or the fat of offered meat. (Iliad 9.497, 499–501)
Compare this with what the prophet Samuel has to say to King Saul about the living God:
Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He has also rejected you from being king. (1Sa. 15.22–23)
What good is it to restrain self-interest at all, much less give it up, unless there is something fundamentally better in this than personally acting in injustice while appearing to be good? None. Plead “social contract” all you like: in the end, acting unjustly and immorally is of the greatest personal benefit as long as one can appear not to be wicked, because there are always people who are worse at committing evil crimes from greed and self-interest and are still marvellously worse at concealing how detestable their deeds are. But is there anything apart from God that makes it better to act in righteousness than in wickedness?
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (Jn. 15.4–5)
Rédemption de Grâce
How amazing, then, that the Lord of all creation should choose to save me from this squalid condition! Because my reception of the gift of life by Christ is so remote in my memory, it is the massive difference between what may have been, i.e. what was already there ready to spring out in perversion in its season, and what is now that shows me how great God’s work has been. When I see what I know I would have done contra what God has done in me, it is a wide, wide gulf between them. I know it is God alone Who gives me any compassion at all; I may be a “humanitarian misanthrope” now, but if God had not found me, I would be alternating between the lust of nihilism and the futility of legalism (set by the measure of my own unbridled will alone), incapable of charity, without grace and without mercy. Because of what I see of unsaved-me, everything is a blessing, everything is mercy, everything in my life is the grace of God Himself.
What a blessing it is that God is a God of both perfect holiness and perfect love.
Hesed and Din: Inseparable
Yes, love: His love, however people talk about what a loving God could and could not do. What is “love” that accommodates all manner of transgression? In parenting, do we not call that “spoiling” a child? Is that love? No, to withhold shalom so as to create a false sense of non-tension is not loving. Steadfast love does not just indulge the harmful desires but seeks the true well-being of the beloved.
Which is easier, to leave another to his own devices or to pursue the purpose of shalom in his life? Is it not the first? Which of these has God done with His nation Israel and with all the world since the Fall? Has He not pursued us and loved us even as we were His enemies?
Yes, even in the sufferings He is working for our peace:
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. (Ps. 46.8–11)
What happens in the desolations? Peace! This is what the holy, jealous God desires for us and works out of and in spite of cataclysmic events of a broken world: peace. Is this a God who stands back and laughs at our plight, as I by myself would be prone to do? By no means! Instead,
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Lk. 19.41–42)
Infinity of Faithfulness
Malevolence? Never! Though He be worthy of trust above all else, I doubt, I doubt, I doubt, but who else can be wiser? Surely, then, man does what is nearly impossible, but the Lord has done the measureless and free, so great, so vast, that
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
though stretched from sky to sky.
God is so boundlessly faithful.