Recently there was some discussion in our adult Sunday school about preaching. Namely, that maybe the kind of preaching we hear in ELCA churches is too grace-centered. The claim: we turn people into couch potatoes.
I disagreed. I don't think we need less grace but more — albeit not cheap grace.
My son did a good job of clarifying this when he said that those whose lives have been difficult, unproductive and filled with bad choices need grace to propel them forward. Grace reminds them that their lack of production and their mistakes don't speak the final word about who they are. And those who have succeeded, produced and behaved need the proclamation of grace to be reminded that life is not fundamentally about production or success.
Grace elevates and it crucifies. Grace is not the problem. In fact, grace is what can truly change us. Grace (the sheer "given-ness" of all things) takes us beyond a preoccupation with ourselves. Grace truly addresses sin.
Can grace be cheapened? Sure. It is cheapened when it's used to excuse negative behavior or choices. For example, when it's used to keep us from addressing evil, as in the case of Nazi Germany's Lutheran church during the time of Adolf Hitler. Many Lutherans allowed cheap grace to prevent them from addressing what Hitler was doing.
We can become faith couch potatoes. But this is not a problem with grace. It is a problem with its application. When we proclaim grace, it is quite clear that all humans should be treated with dignity and compassion. We should have been the first to speak up against Hitler's inhumanity. Grace should not let us remain silent.
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