"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

22 February 2007

Cheap Grace: Worth What It Costs?

Death on a Friday Afternoon is Neuhaus's meditations on the final seven "words" of Christ on the cross. The first -- on the statement "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" -- begins by urging us, in Neuhaus's gently eloquent way, not to leap forward to Easter but to "stay awhile" at Good Friday, reflecting on the fallen Lord and our complicity in His death.

He writes, "after such a separation [ours willfully from God] there can be no easy reunion. [. . .] Spare me a gospel of easy love that makes of my life a thing without consequence."

I had not, I think, considered reconciliation in quite this way. I have intellectually understood that there needs to be payment for "that which has gone wrong" and that Christ could make that payment because He was the only one who had not gone wrong Himself.

And I have intellectually understood that my going wrong -- my sin -- was the problem that I could not fix myself, requiring that I make the ultimate payment, death, or that another, who was able, pay for me.

But I hadn't thought about how "cheap grace" makes my life of no value. Sin cannot be merely overlooked as if it had not occurred; a penalty commensurate to the sin must be paid; it must cost someone something to fix the problem.

"If bad things don't matter," Neuhaus writes, "then good things don't matter, and then nothing matters and the meaning of everything lies shattered like the cookie jar on the kitchen floor." And earlier, "Spare me the sentimental love that tells me what I do and what I am does not matter."

And so with all of life. When I shrug and ignore the violation of rules I have created for the good of my children or of my students, I am telling them, "What you do is not really that important." And when they accept my cheap grace, they have accepted a lie about themselves -- that they are not worthy -- and a truth about me -- that I do not care enough about them to show them their worth.

Food for thought. As God has cared for me, may I discipline myself to care enough for those He has placed under my stewardship to show them His love in His ways.

No comments: