God’s scandalous grace

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scandalous grace

Scandalous grace

God’s scandalous grace is Biblical grace. Grace, from the Greek “charis”  specifically means undeserved or unmerited favor.  For grace to be grace it should never be expected since it has no basis on merit or recompense. Grace implies receiving without having a reason to receive. Once grace has a reason, it becomes something else.

Fake grace

While my wife Sandra and I were on vacation in northeastern Brazil we went for a walk along the beachfront. As we passed some new hotels, a tall, handsome young man stopped us and asked us if we would like a chance to win a free dinner at the new hotel.  He gave me a scratch card and told me that if I rubbed off three matching symbols (out of 5) we would win a free dinner.  I was able to choose correctly and we won a voucher for the free dinner.  We agreed to return at 6:00 p.m. to claim our meal.  When we arrived at the hotel we were introduced to an attractive young woman who asked us to sit down and chat for a while before dinner.  She was very nice so we didn’t object.

To make a long story short we were pressured into listening to a 50 minute timeshare presentation for the group of hotels that they represented.  At the end we were asked to sign a contract to buy a timeshare for the next ten years.  I made it clear that I wasn’t prepared to sign any contract so finally we were excused and instructed how to claim our free dinner.  The dinner was fine but in the end it wasn’t exactly free.  This was an example of a free gift that had nothing to do with grace, there was no scandal to it.

How can I say that?  Well, for one thing we were chosen because we were obviously tourists on vacation.  If we had looked like a couple of beggars or gypsies we would have never received the “chance” to win a “free” dinner and that would have been an example of the scandal of grace.  It was made clear that in order to be shown to the dining room we had to go through the process of hearing their timeshare spiel.  Finally after we declined to “purchase the goods” they made us feel like we were cheating them by claiming what they intended to be a small reward for purchasing their product.

If this was truly an example of a “free gift” or scandalous grace, it would be completely independent of any interest the hotel had of making any money.  If it was a gift of grace gypsies and bums would have overrun the place. That would have been scandalous grace. Wherever there is even an ounce of merit there can be no grace, only payment. Our dinner that evening was not free.  We paid for it by listening patiently to a sales pitch for a product that we did not want to purchase, and then when they should have treated us like deserving patrons, we were made to feel like opportunistic cheapskates! We felt scandalized but it was a far cry from scandalous grace.

Scandalous grace and salvation

The truth is that grace is a difficult concept for us humans to comprehend and even more so, to accept.  Many Christians believe that salvation has been given on the basis of grace, but then turn around and apply principles of barter and exchange to interpret how eternal life and salvation are obtained. The principle way this is done is maintaining that there is the possibility that salvation can be lost, due to negligence, disinterest or any other type of sin.  Some call it backsliding, others call it “falling away” or “falling from grace.” This reveals either a lack of understanding of what grace really is, or a practical admission that salvation really isn’t received on the basis of grace and is somehow paid for by good works and service. Scandalous grace implies that we can’t pay for salvation, nor can we pay to keep it.

Scandalous grace can only be shown to someone who is in a position of need and incapable of repaying what is received. Therefore we can never extend grace to someone who is able to give back what we give. If we could somehow repay the gift of eternal life it would no longer be a gift but simply a kind of loan.  Grace is neither God’s payment of a debt nor is it His over payment of a debt. It isn’t payment for good works subsequent to salvation. It is a total scandal, scandalous grace!

An illustration of scandalous grace

Suppose that I have a neighbor with a mischievous son who routinely “borrows” his father’s car for “driving practice”.  One day he decides to borrow his father’s car for a joy ride.  As soon as he pulls out of the driveway he loses control and crashes into the wall of my front yard and breaks a big hole in it.  I can deal with the situation by having one of three different attitudes, justice, mercy or grace.  All three are valid attitudes and I would be correct in choosing any of the three.

One way I can deal with the situation is with an attitude of justice: so I explain to the boy that he or his father will have to pay for the damage.  The damaged car can be sold and the difference can be used to fix my wall.  There would be nothing wrong with this since it is based on what is just and right.  The boy and his family need to right the wrong committed against me.  Paying for the damage is the right thing for him to do.

Another way that the situation could be resolved is if I looked at the young man and told him that he was already in enough trouble.  I could tell him that his father did not have the means to pay for the damage to the car much less repair my wall.  I could then have an attitude of mercy and send him away telling him that I will take care of the damage that he caused to my wall and he would take care of the rest of the damage to his father’s car. This would be mercy, a little better for him than justice, but he still has the problem of his father’s wrecked car.

But there is a third possibility, I can be gracious to him.  How would this work out?  I could run to the car and ask the boy if he was hurt.  He might answer “no, but the car is wrecked and I destroyed your wall.”  I could then brush those details aside and say, “so you want to learn how to drive, is that right?  Listen you don’t have to do this behind your father’s back.  Look, I will fix my wall and pay for the repairs to your father’s car.  While your car is being fixed, you can use my car, and I myself will teach you how to drive, and once you learn how to drive I will give you my car so that you won’t ever have to borrow your father’s car again.” Do you see God’s scandalous grace here?

Do you know anyone who would treat you that way?  Well, God did!  That is what God in Christ has done for every sinner.  Mankind deserves a one way ticket to hell for what he has done with the life that God has given to be lived out for Him.  But instead of treating us with justice, instead of just showing mercy, He showed us grace.  He sent His own son to die in our place and then He gave us a position in His  own family and called us by His own name, and gave us a share in the inheritance that He reserved for His only begotten son.  Grace is surprising, grace is unexpected, grace is divine and because of this, man has a hard time understanding it and how it can be applied to his situation because it is the scandal of grace.




No Responses to “God’s scandalous grace”

  1. ToddR says:

    Strong’s concordance shows different greek words are used for the word gift in Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8. In Romans 6:23 it means a favor with which one receives without any merit of his own.
    In Ephesians 2:8 it means a gift or sacrafice. Youngs literal translation uses the word gift and so does the amplified version. The problem with the english language is we use one word to describe things like gift and love and the greeks used many words because they had different meanings. We use the word gift and to use it means mostly one thing. I think instead of the bible saying gift it should give an explanation of what they ment. Or used a different english word. Like the favor or sacrafice of God.

  2. ToddR says:

    If we can only be saved by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus or by accepting grace then it is not grace. Correct? People say you have to accept it to receive it.

    • vinebrancher says:

      How else could someone receive a gift except by accepting it? The only other option is rejecting it. If someone that you do not know, offers to pay for your lunch for no logical reason, would it cease to be grace just because you accept it? Of course not! There is no other way to receive anything other than accepting it.

      • ToddR says:

        The gospel who John teaches who ever believes has eternal life. I don’t know of the gospel of John teaching a person has to pray or ask to be saved. Or accept the gift. The jailer asked paul and silas what what must i do to be saved? The answer was believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. They did not say accept the gift of salvation or say a prayer to be saved.

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