The afternoon of February 14 my mother passed into the presence of God. She was 83 years old. You may remember that my father died the Thursday before last Easter.
As I reflect back over my years under their leadership, I realize how blessed I am. In all of the years that I knew them, not once did I ever hear them argue or raise their voices to one another in anger. Mom submitted to Dad’s headship, and Dad treated Mom with honor and respect.
In a way this is quite extraordinary in that both Mom and Dad came from broken homes. I never knew either of my grandfathers. A few years before Dad died, we were looking at some old photos at their house and I ran across one of a man I didn’t recognize. I asked Dad who it was, and he said he didn’t know. When I asked Mom, she said it was my paternal grandfather. Evidently the hostility Dad felt for his father was so great that he refused to even recognize his picture.
My brother, two sisters and I were raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, a lovely home in a lovely area. The folks built a summer home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and as children we spent each summer in these idyllic surroundings. They were wonderful years.
Probably because my parents were so well ordered in their lives, they never communicated much interest in the spiritual. If you would have asked them, they would have told you that they were Christians. But prayer, Bible reading and church never played a role in our family. They were heavily involved in the Masonic Lodge, and Dad once commented that this was his religion. He was a good man, and he lived a good life.
I remember when my son Walter died, I had the one and only extensive opportunity to share my faith in Christ with Dad. Before and since he would never allow me to discuss it with him. On this occasion, after I had related my testimony of how I had found the Saviour, he said, “Son, if I were as bad as you, I would probably need a Saviour, too.” That was the end of the conversation. In one sense he was right. He was a better man than I. His relative goodness, however, blinded him of his need of the Lord.
When I came to Christ at age 19, my parents saw it as a rejection of the way they had raised me. My acceptance of Christ communicated that I felt their training of me was inadequate. Our relationship after this was never the same. Mom and Dad were never the kind to be effusive in expressions of love, nor were they prone to express confidence and pride in us. But from the time of my conversion until they died, there continued an undercurrent of hostility. The only softening that I saw was in their love for my children.
I honor my father and mother and thank God for the privilege of being their son. It wasn’t a perfect home, and I wasn’t a perfect son. I hear so much about dysfunctional people from dysfunctional homes. In one degree or another we are all dysfunctional. It is the product of being fallen people in a fallen world. That is what the Cross is all about. I was raised in what I feel was a better than average environment. If it and I were perfect, I would have no need for Jesus. My relationship with Him more than compensates for all the sin and imperfection of life. Our Heavenly Father would have it no other way.
This is the introduction to a new series on the Grace of God. Grace is the arch stone of our relationship with Him. It is the basis of the Cross and our perpetual acceptance in His sight. A lot of what will constitute these next issues will be review for you, but hopefully a worthy reminder of how great our God is!
Throughout history all men have had in common that they hate the grace of God. For the Christian, this may sound like heresy, but even for those of us who have experienced the grace of God in the salvation offered by His Son, we only appreciate it in those areas in which it has touched our lives.
Therefore, as we begin this series on the grace of God, it may be good to explore exactly why people have always had an antipathy towards His grace.
Grace can be defined as the favor of God bestowed upon the undeserving without reference to reciprocity. We will probe and dissect this definition in the coming months, but note that there is nothing in the object of God’s grace that warrants His favor.
We see from this that our Lord’s grace is bestowed upon people as a choice made wholly from within the counsel of His own will. Some receive it, and some do not. There is no explanation for this other than it is what God wants. To the degree that you conclude that there was something in the object of His grace that caused God to be drawn towards that person, it is no longer grace.
Man’s response to this is that it is intrinsically unfair; for man, in his fallen state, concludes that “fair” and “equal” are for all practical purposes synonyms. For example, when a child’s mother gives each of the siblings one cookie, but for no reason singles out one of them as special and gives that one two cookies, the others resent it, feeling that it is unfair.
This is the main reason the ten Sons of Jacob hated their brother Joseph. We tend to fault Jacob for showing favoritism to Joseph, but that is what grace is all about. The reason the Christian goes to heaven is God has singled him out from others and shown favoritism towards him.
Probably the outstanding example of God’s grace in history is His choice of Israel as His people. There is no logical explanation for God selecting the Jewish people. He Himself, calls them a nation of whores.
I remember a prominent Christian leader saying in my presence, “I went to Israel and watched how they treat the Arabs, and I can tell you, they are not the chosen people of God. God’s people simply do not act that way!” Many Christians would agree with this leader.
One of the amazing things about the Jewish people is their almost universal dislike by the rest of the human race. Few, if any other groups have been so thoroughly loathed and persecuted. It is easy to see why most of the church has concluded that Israel has been replaced in the affections of God by the church.
GIFTS AND ABILITIES
The easiest area in which to see the arbitrariness of God in the way He handles people is in His distribution of gifts, abilities and circumstances. Why does God make some people minorities? Why does He make some brilliant and others dull witted? Why do some prosper and others suffer poverty? Why are some healthy and others filled with pain? Why, why, why?
The non-Christian answers by saying that it is the fickle finger of fate, but the believer is also at a loss as to why, other than to say that for reasons known only to God this is how He wanted it.
Because such things are outside of human control, we tend to view them from a fatalistic perspective. “It is just the way things are.” The Christian feels fortunate if his temporal circumstances are to his liking and is quick to attribute them to the grace of God. Those less fortunate are left wondering why God has not been gracious to them.
It is interesting to note, however, that God promises the believer that, although he may not understand why his condition appears to be unfortunate, he can be assured that it will all work out to his ultimate benefit. For example, Paul says in Romans 8:28:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.
Thus God promises him that if he will but respond properly to whatever the condition in which he finds himself, he will be rewarded, if not in this life, certainly in the life to come. As a matter of fact, although salvation is by grace, reward in heaven is not. The believer’s reward is based on how he stewards the gifts, abilities and circumstances God gives him.
The Christian tends to believe, however, that his temporal blessings are the product of his own work, and the rewards of heaven are the product of grace. In other words, he reverses the divine order.