I want to thank those of you who took the time to comment on my Michael Brown post over the weekend. That post evidently resonated with many. Within 48 hours of publication it had attracted 250 comments. To put that in perspective, that’s almost as many comments as the original CharismaNews article got in a week.
If you missed the hubbub, Michael Brown wrote an opinion piece confronting what he calls the error of hyper-grace, namely, that the notion that God sees us as holy and righteous. Michael disagrees. “God sees our sin,” says Michael. “Consequently, we need to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates.”
I took issue with this because it suggests that God relates to us on the basis of our behavior and that we have to clean ourselves up before God will accept us. To be fair, Michael never said this, but his message nonetheless amounts to putting a price-tag on God’s love and acceptance.
Where the Bible puts exclamation marks – “God loves you!” – Michael put question marks: “Really? Always? 24-7? God always loves what he sees when he looks at his people?”
Anyway, what followed was a stimulating discussion from people like you. I have now had a chance to read through all the comments several times and I have learned a lot. As I keep saying, E2R readers are a smart bunch! The wisdom some of you have amazes me. I am truly blessed to receive from you.
I also want to thank those of you who encouraged me on my Facebook page on Sunday. After reading one particularly nasty and personal comment (don’t look for it, you won’t find it), my countenance dropped. I get called names all the time and normally it doesn’t bother me. But on Sunday it did and I was gloomy for 10 minutes. Some of you picked up on that and you sought to lift my chin.
Thank you. You’re beautiful.
On Monday morning and with a clear head I sat down to distill some of the lessons I learned over the weekend. I’m not yet prepared to share those lessons except for one, and here it is:
As my friend Steve Hackman pointed out in his own response to Michael Brown, the “grace camp” label is horrible. When I went back and reread my article that phrase was the one thing I just had to change. (In the revised post I now refer to the grace movement. I know, it’s hardly an improvement. Got any better ideas?)
Why do I dislike “grace camp”? Because there is no grace camp. There’s just Jesus and we’re all one in Christ. If you trust in Jesus, you’re in the Jesus Camp and it’s the only camp.
Grace is meant to be inclusive. All are welcome in the House of Grace because Jesus died for all of us. The moment we allow ourselves to be defined as a special camp, we start swinging towards an unChristlike exclusivity, like we’re a country club or something.
Manmade religion draws lines between Us and Them but the grace of God tears down dividing walls. I know we’re not all going to see eye to eye, but I don’t want to contribute to a culture that perpetuates fracture lines within the body of Christ. If you see me talking about grace camps again, please remind me of Galatians 3:28.
What about hyper-grace?
Michael never called us a grace camp – that was my own stupid fault – but he does describe us with the label “hyper-grace.” What do you think about this? Personally, I’m in two minds. I think any label is demeaning. The moment we label people we diminish them, we reduce them to caricatures.
“You’re in the hyper-grace camp? So you’re one of those who says we can sin freely and God will still love us. I read about you turkeys on Charisma.”
Yeah, that’s real helpful. I am already paying the price for this cartoon-like rendition of the grace message in the form of time-wasting comments from misguided folks who think we advocate sin.
[Sidebar: You may be aware that this morning CharismaNews published a second piece from Michael. In this article he worries that the message of grace which we preach is unbalanced, as evidenced by the sinful fruit of those who have abused it. Michael seems to think that the abuse of the gospel Jesus revealed and Paul preached is a new thing. I have just one word to say in response to that: Corinthians.]
On the other hand, we may find ourselves stuck with the label hyper-grace much like the believers of Antioch were stuck with the label “Christian.” If that is the case – if you are about to be permanently branded by others as “hyper-grace” – how do you feel about that? Are you happy about it? Do you find it objectionable? Are you cool with it?
To get a conversation started, here are some thoughts from those who commented under the last post:
- Titus 2:11-12 says grace is a person called Jesus. Thus hyper-grace maybe also called hyper-Jesus. Does this mean there is such thing as “too much Jesus”? Or such a thing as “relying on Jesus too much”? … Hyper (also) means “abounds,” so I guess the name is appropriate because the Scripture says, “Grace super-abounds!” ~Joseph Librero
- The whole concept of “hyper-grace” being a bad thing is silly! The lengths to which God chose to go in Grace for us (to the death) is pretty “hyper,” is it not?! ~JGIG
- Wasn’t Paul accused of preaching hyper-grace? (see Romans 3:8, 5:20-6:2) ~John Long
- I am dead to sin. I have a righteousness conscience. I feel free. Free from sin. That’s hyper-grace. Thank you Jesus. ~ Phillip Waite
So far the vibe seems to be generally positive. But what do you think of this term hyper-grace?
Is it something to embrace, resist, or accept? Does it hinder the gospel by suggesting we’re an exclusive camp within the Body of Christ? Or does it promote the gospel by accurately conveying the way grace operates – energetically and actively? I’d love to hear your thoughts.