Second, grace liberates. Humans have the gift of enslavement. We
enslave ourselves to our nonsense, we enslave others to our own nonsense, and
we enslave the world to our nonsense. A good example of nonsense is cynicism.
Cynicism trades in tearing others down. When we see Obama, we think power. When
we think of Europe, we think sleepy secularization. When we think of
megachurches, we think of consumerism. When we think of teenagers, we think of
drugs and hooking up. When we spot a policeman, we think abuse of power. When
we see a professor, we think “she’s in it for the money.” When we see
a pretty young girl, we think she must be anorexic. When we see a handsome
young man, we think “if we only knew what he was really like.” When
we see a priest, we think of child abuse.
Notice what is happening: our view of
other humans, even if rooted at
times in brutal truth, has become jaded. We have instinctually learned
to connect a person to a negative stereotype. That connection leads to a
cynical view of reality. Instead of believing that
priests can be good and gospel-like, instead of thinking some girls are pretty
and some guys good-looking and some teenagers manage to get to marriage without
doing drugs and joining the hook-up culture … instead of believing the good
in others first, we resort to cynicism.
Grace liberates us from the nonsense of cynicism. Grace believes in others first, grace teaches us to think that God loves everyone we encounter, grace leads us to trust others, and grace opens up for us a world where interaction and love and connection flow. Grace is like cyberspace: it takes us our love and delivers it others and it takes their love and delivers it to us. Because it delivers the goods, grace creates a new world of justice, peace and love. It liberates us from our nonsense and opens us up the GodLife.
I’d like more grace to deliver me from the nonsense of racism and ethnic division. I’d like more grace to deliver me from fear of death, and that means I’d like to experience what Paul said when he gave thanks to God “who leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge” (2 Cor 2:14) of God everywhere we go. Paul took the very typical celebration of an emperor who, upon return from a victory, paraded the captives through the city to humiliate them. Paul saw Christ as leading his own little followers on such a victory march as he put on parade those who work injustice in this world. I’d like more grace to deliver me from the nonsense of financial worry.
I was speaking in Atlanta at a church and the limo driver picked us up to take us to the airport. The driver was a kind man and we engaged him in our conversation, even though I had brain fog after preaching three times that morning. About a mile or so from the airport he asked if I was a minister of the gospel, and I said I was.
He asked, “Do you take prayer requests?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I’ll write it down and give it to you when we get to the curb.”
He then added, “I’m having trouble with job security.”
As we got our bags, the man (his name was Alveno) gave me a credit card sales slip and I still have it. On the back of it he wrote: “Alveno. Prayer Request. Increase in faith. Deliverance from worry, fear, anxiety.” Alveno wanted prayer because he believed God could set him free from the nonsense of financial anxiety. Lots of people are filled with financial fear – and not just 40-year olds who are worried about losing their job.
We live today in economical turbulence that takes too many sudden shifts and those shifts sometimes send us into tailspins and dizziness in the core of our being. Students wonder themselves into anxiety when it comes to internships and jobs when they graduate. 20somethings are anxious about finding someone who loves them and whom they love, about landing upon a career that gives life significance, and about locating a center to life that offers spiritual guidance. Grace liberated Jesus and the earliest Christians from fears because they learned that the God of grace was on their side. It set them free. Jesus, the grace-soaked and grace-soaking agent of God’s grace, put it this way: “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Paul echoed Jesus with “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1). Grace sets us free from all our nonsenses.