In 1987, an IRA bomb buried Gordon Wilson and his twenty-year-old daughter beneath five feet of rubble. Gordon alone survived. And forgave. He said of the bombers, " I have lost my daughter, but I bear no grudge . . . I shall pray, tonight and every night, that God will forgive them." His words caught the media's ears -- and out of one man's grief, the world got a glimpse of grace. Grace is the church's great distinctive. It's the one thing the world cannot duplicate, and the one thing it craves above all else -- for only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world. In What's So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God's love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy? Yancey sets grace in the midst of life's stark images, tests its mettle against horrific "ungrace." Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men? Grace does not excuse sin, says Yancey, but it treasures the sinner. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. It forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser. It loves today's AIDS-ridden addict as much as the tax collector of Jesus' day. In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace's life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear? And he challenges us to become living answers to a world that desperately wants to know, What's So Amazing About Grace?
Style: Yancey is a clear, articulate, informed and very readable author.
I expected the book to be mostly about God's grace to us - and it was. But the majority of the book also dealt with our grace towards other people. It was a message Adventists certainly need to hear After reading the book, however, I realize this is a lesson people in all conservative religions need to hear.
Yancey starts the book with the story of a prostitute who sells her young daughter as a prostitute to get money to live. Someone asks her why she doesn't attend church and she responds, "Church! Why would I want to go there? i already feel bad enough about myself - they would only make me feel worse."
Yancey asked the question - what has happened to the church - in Jesus day, prostitutes flocked to Jesus but no longer feel welcomed by his followers. He says he himself left the church because he did not find grace there, but he returned because he did not find it elsewhere. He discusses the strict rules of his Bible College and how they defended cultural decisions with unrelated Bible texts as if they were moral issues.
He says he wrote an article about sympathy for those in pain and many people wrote to him saying pain was a punishment from God. He says he "yearns for the church to become a nourishing culture of grace."
Yancey's writing is always intelligent and thoughtful whilst still being practical, compassionate and confronting.
Though the message he brings isn't exactly new, it is one which is easy to forget in the everyday bustle and hustle. This is a call to all people to remember to live in grace, but especially to Christians who have been so distracted by morality and busy work, we have forgotten our origins as bastards saved by grace. I plan to buy this book and reread it, the message is so important.
Some of my favorite quotes from this book:
Grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us.
Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.
Grace comes free of charge to people who do not deserve it and I am one of those people.
There is perhaps no one of natural passions so hard to subdue as pride... Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility. (Benjamin Franklin)
Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude.
Some of us seem so anxious about avoiding hell that we forget to celebrate our journey toward heaven.
Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. And, grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. (C.S. Lewis)
If everyone followed the "eye for an eye" principle of justice, eventually the whole world would go blind. (Mohandas Gandhi)
Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear. (MLK Jr.)
Law merely indicated the sickness; grace brought about the cure.
Our real challenge should not be to Christianize the United States but rather to strive to be Christ's church in an increasingly hostile world.
Moralism apart from grace solves little.
Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian. (D.L. Moody)
A grace-full Christian is one who looks at the world through "grace-tinted lenses".
Grace?", Phillip Yancey points out its shocking nature - grace cost Jesus everything....and costs us nothing. We don't deserve it, we cannot earn it, and we are completely unable to repay Him for it, yet it is ours for the taking, a gift from God. Once you have truly grasped this, you will be overcome with a willingness to love Christ and serve Him in any way you can....not because you have to, but because you want to. A grace-filled life is a Christ-filled life - when as Christians we show little grace to others, we are also showing very little of Christ. Yancey tells the story of C. S. Lewis - when asked what makes Christianity different from all other religions, he responded with one word...grace. It is what we need, what the world needs. Yancey's book makes me want to be a full-of-grace person, loving Christ and loving others - not because I feel guilty or fearful, seeking to earn God's love....but as a response to the love God has already given.
In my experience, rejoicing and gladness are not the first images that come to mind when people think of the church. They think of holier-than-thous. They think of church as a place to go after you have cleaned up your act, not before. They think of morality, not grace. "Church!" said the prostitute, "Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They'd just make me feel worse."
I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else.
Now I am trying in my own small way to pipe the tune of grace. I do so because I know, more surely than I know anything, that any pang of healing or forgiveness or goodness I have ever felt comes solely from the grace of God. I yearn for the church to become a nourishing culture of that grace.
I believe Jesus gave us these stories to call us to step completely outside our tit-for-tat world of ungrace and enter into God’s realm of infinite grace.
"If John were to be asked, 'What is your primary identity in life?' he would not reply, 'I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,' but rather, 'I am the one Jesus loves.'" Brennan Manning
At last I understood: in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy.
I share a deep concern for our society. I am struck, though, by the alternative power of mercy as demonstrated by Jesus, who came for the sick and not the well, for the sinners and not the righteous. Jesus never countenanced evil, but he did stand ready to forgive it. Somehow, he gained the reputation as a lover of sinners, a reputation that his followers are in danger of losing today. As Dorothy Day put it, "I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least."
“Don't the Bible say we must love everybody?" "O, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them." Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
We may be abominations, but we are still God’s pride and joy. All of us in church need “grace-healed eyes” to see the potential in others for the same grace that God has lavishly bestowed on us.
The scene from John 8 rattles me because by nature I identify more with the accusers than the accused. I deny far more than I confess. Cloaking my sin under a robe of respectability, I seldom if ever let myself get caught in a blatant, public indiscretion. Yet if I understand this story correctly, the sinful woman is the nearest the kingdom of God. Indeed, I can only advance in the kingdom if I become like that woman: trembling, humbled, without excuse, my palms open to receive God's grace.
If we truly grasped the wonder of God’s love for us, the devious question that prompted Romans 6 and 7 — What can I get away with? — would never even occur to us. We would spend our days trying to fathom, not exploit, God’s grace.
Legalism may "work" in an institution such as a Bible college or the Marine Corps. In a world of ungrace, structured shame has considerable power. But there is a cost, an incalculable cost: ungrace does not work in a relationship with God. I have come to see legalism in its pursuit of false purity as an elaborate scheme of grace avoidance. You can know the law by heart without knowing the heart of it.
Jesus' fierce denunciations of the Pharisees show how seriously He viewed the toxic threat of legalism. Its dangers are elusive
the proof of spiritual maturity is not how 'pure' you are but awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to grace.
The spiritual games we play, many of which begin with the best of motives, can perversely lead us away from God, because they lead us away from grace. Repentance, not proper behavior or even holiness, is the doorway to grace. And the opposite of sin is grace, not virtue.
In short, the President had not experienced much grace from Christians. “I've been in politics long enough to expect criticism and hostility. But I was unprepared for the hatred I get from Christians. Why do Christians hate so much?” Bill Clinton
as I read through stacks of vituperative letters I got a strong sense for why the world at large does not automatically associate the word ‘grace’ with evangelical Christians.
For this reason, I wonder about the enormous energy being devoted these days to restoring morality to the United States. Are we concentrating more on the kingdom of this world than on the kingdom that is not of this world? The public image of the evangelical church today is practically defined by an emphasis on two issues that Jesus did not even mention. How will we feel if historians of the future look back on the evangelical Church of the 1990's and declare, ‘They fought bravely on the moral fronts of abortion and homosexuality rights,' while at the same time reporting that we did little to fulfill the great commission, and we did little to spread the aroma of grace in the world?
“the church must be reminded that it is not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.” Rev. Dr. Martin King, Jr.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Quincy Adams
One China expert estimates that the revival in China represents the greatest numerical increase in the history of the Church. In an odd way the government hostility ultimately worked to the church’s advantage. Chinese Christians devoted themselves to worship and evangelism - the original mission of the Church - and did not much concern themselves with politics. They concentrated on changing lives not changing laws.
How does a grace-full Christian look? The Christian life, I believe, does not primarily center on ethics or rules but rather involves a new way of seeing. I escape the force of spiritual “gravity” when I begin to see myself as a sinner who cannot please God by any method of self-improvement or self-enlargement. Only then can I turn to God for outside help – for grace – and to my amazement I learn that a holy God already loves me despite my defects. I escape the force of gravity again when I recognize my neighbors also as sinners, loved by God. A grace- full Christian is one who looks at the world through “grace-tinted lenses.”
The book's been criticised by fundamentalists; not surprisingly perhaps since Yancey grew up fundamentalist - and racist - himself. But now he accepts that God is found in many places and people, and can be part of all denominations whether Protestant, Orthodox or Catholic. His writing makes such intuitive sense, and is so well expressed, that I find it hard to see how anyone could disagree with it. This is how the church should be, and it's a massive challenge for the 21st century where Christianity is more often associated with anger and critisism than with compassion and grace.
Re-read eight years later, and still found it powerful, even if a little over-political in places.
My favourite idea is a quotation from CS Lewis about the concept of loving the sinner while hating the sin: we have felt this way about ourselves all our life: "There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. ... Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things."