A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Evil in Our Eyes and Transforming Grace in Our Hearts

Two hunters were flown deep into a remote part of Canada in search of elk. When they started home, their pilot, seeing that they had bagged six elk, told them the plane could carry only four. The hunters protested. "The plane that carried us out last year was exactly like this one. The horsepower was the same, the weather was similar, and we had six elk then." Hearing this, the pilot reluctantly agreed to try. They loaded the plane and took off. Unfortunately, the plane did not have sufficient power to climb out of the valley with all that weight, so they crashed. As they stumbled from the wreckage, one hunter asked the other if he knew where they were. "Well, I'm not sure," replied the second hunter, "but I think we are about two miles from where we crashed last year."

In the book of Judges, Israel continues to forget its experiences of calamity resulting from their disobedience. In several places throughout the Judges cycle, we read, "Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD" (2:11; 3:7; 3:12; 4:11; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1; ). On every occasion that the Israelites "did evil," they fell under the control of a foreign people; and on every occasion, God sent a Judge or, more correctly, a Deliverer to free them. One would think that after one or two cycles of sin, slavery and then freedom, God's people would have learned from their experiences. Perhaps some assumed that God would deliver them regardless of how they behaved. One thing is certain-- human beings tend to suffer from chronic moral amnesia.

It is an example of God's amazing grace that he continues to offer deliverance in spite of our repeated attempts to live life our own way. That does not provide an excuse for us, as St. Paul states, "Shall we sin that grace may abound? Absolutely not!" (Romans 6:15). God's grace is not passive; it is an active, transforming thing. Martin Luther, in his commentary on Romans, states, "Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God.... Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times.... Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him his grace" (Meuller translation).

While the offer of grace is always available, so is its transforming nature. Jesus welcomes all to the foot of the cross, but we must be prepared to carry our cross as we leave. That is why Jesus told us to count the cost (Luke 14:27-30). St. Augustine's famous dictum holds true: "He who made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves."

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