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“The chief object of education is not to learn things but to unlearn things.”
Learning grace requires unlearning too.
Most of us would agree that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. The flip side of this, which we don’t always acknowledge, is that doubt is being sure of what we dread and certain of what we cannot see.
Faith and doubt both align themselves around surety and certainty.
The unlearning part of learning grace doesn’t require us to trade our faith for doubt in the things that we have hoped for. No. Learning grace is an invitation to loosen our grip on truth to make space for experiencing grace—first for ourselves, and then for others.
The unlearning has to do with our surety of what is true. We aren’t necessarily finding some other truth. We are just leaning into the fact that maybe the way we see all of the true things in life is also tinted by our experience as well as our lack of experience.
When we read scripture with a 21st century lens, it distorts the original author’s intent. Even when we try to understand the original context and meaning, even then, our view on what is true and real is still sharpened or dulled by our 21st century experience.
The same sharp blade from the hand of a surgeon can accidentally (or intentionally) murder someone if it isn’t used with grace.
Reading scripture and studying the bible and soaking in sermons and listening to podcasts and wearing out commentaries and discussing talking points and unpacking verses all lead us to define the edges of truth, the way that we see it.
…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…
Rather than learning to live in step with the Spirit, we sharpen the edge of our view of what must be true–hoping to stay in line, hoping to help others recognize their trespasses beyond the edges we’ve made sure hold true.
It’s possible (and probable) that the edge of truth becomes more important to us than the humanity on the receiving end of the blade.
Sometimes you’re on the receiving end of someone’s sharpness.
Sometimes you’re the one extending the sharp truth to others.
Sometimes out loud.
Rarely are these sharp incisions reflecting the heart of Jesus.
When I read the gospels and Jesus rolls up into people’s lives, there is so much grace that sometimes we don’t even get to the truth part. It seems like the point of grace isn’t even to make sure that the truth gets to do its job when the time comes. Often grace, in and of itself, is an entire encounter.
This isn’t typical of the modern church though.
The Christian industrial complex forms Christians where the sword of the Spirit is reduced to an ability to wield scriptures without taking responsibility for the lethal ways they are used. In a defensive attempt to always be right and church growth tactics that more resemble manifest destiny than ambassadors of Love, wrong people become collateral damage.
This is why we’re learning grace.
This is why we’re unlearning surety that causes people to become collateral damage.
It doesn’t matter if we didn’t intend to hurt people.
It matters if the word of God is no longer the sword of the Spirit but the sword of my view of truth.
It matters if we love truth more than people.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is processing his life in Christ well beyond his initial conversion process and he has been pleading with the HS to remove the thorn in his flesh.
In verse nine is where we receive a definition of grace within the Spirit filled life of being in Christ post resurrection and ascension:
Grace: that which is sufficient for you, the power of God’s love working in you, specific to your weaknesses, which I may know nothing about.
I used to be frustrated at Paul for not sharing the details of the thorn, but now I think it’s important.
Grace isn’t measured. Grace is lavished.
If we knew what Paul’s insufficiency looked like, we might create maximum values for the capacity of grace.
I know because we do this with ourselves.
Every Christ follower I’ve ever known has held back pieces and parts of their own lives, the inter-workings of their stories. Part of the hope of being reconciled to God is that past experiences might not define us anymore. We desperately hope for the dead things to die and the hope of heaven to redefine the rest of our days.
But often, we fear that the old dead things might have some kind of unholy resurrection. We don’t share those things with others because it isn’t safe.
What if the dead things come back?
The difficult corner many of us back into, though, is when we don’t share those things with God. The unspeakable things become ungraced ghosts hiding in the shadows. Then, much of our subconscious spirituality is focused on potential dread rather than the possibility of hope.
All of this unlearning centers around sureties, some stated and some unspoken. Becoming the type of people who understand the depth and weight of grace doesn’t come from brutal honesty or denying what we dread or insisting on hope.
Freedom is found in a simple word:
Of course the very existence of the possibility of maybe implies that also, maybe not.
But that’s the point.
You don’t know.
I don’t know.
We don’t know.
The point of Jesus entering the human story as an actual human being, living the life he lived, dying the death he died, his resurrection, great commission, ascension and pouring out of the HS was not so that we might know all the things.
It was so that we could be reconciled to God.
So when there are things you are sure may keep you out or trip you up or be deal breakers or heart breakers or faith failures…
But those aren’t the point.
The point of grace (and the point of truth, for that matter) is so that we can be with Jesus.
Jesus invited us to the table so that we could become friends, to experience that which is sufficient, the power of God’s love, specific to each of our weaknesses, which others may know nothing about–but Jesus does.
Learning grace requires us to recognize that all of the truthy knowledge and all of the gracey experiences are only, ever and always for the purpose of being reconciled to God in Christ.
The most powerful thing we can learn to say about all of the things we experience as we go is “maybe.”
There is no learning grace without humility, and it is this humility that will help us loosen that grip on truth, making space for experiencing grace.
I desperately want to learn grace and want to learn grace along with you, that we might be known by the way we love one another and that the hope of heaven manifested in the people of God would be good news to those who haven’t heard it.
But I am convinced that we won’t become these people by pretending to love people.
The sword of the Spirit is not something we wield in defense or to forcefully advance the kingdom of heaven.
The sword of the Spirit, the word of God, is the Great Physician’s tool on our own hearts.
We must begin with finding ourselves surrounded by full grace.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I wonder where the sharp edges of this truth might make incisions in your own heart to let the grace in. I wonder what difficult, dark corners might be generalized and glossed over and lurking in the shadows of your spiritual subconscious. I wonder how much grace you’re missing out on by not grieving the way you’ve held back portions of your own life instead of finding that Jesus is already there, softening the difficult edges with his love.
Jesus loves us more than our humanistic understanding of truth.
Because Jesus is the actual, full truth.
I wonder if the hidden lists that you’ve held in your heart of things you may need to fix or make amends for or bear the burden of or find refuge from might actually not condemn you. Not because you were able to fix it or make amends or whatever, but because of Jesus.
What if we were actually reconciled to God through Christ?
Would that be enough?
Because this is the only place from which we can learn grace for ourselves and for those around us.
Would that be enough?
I hope, like me, you can answer this question honestly with the word that’s going to help us unlearn our surety around our clouded views of what is true.
Would that be enough?
Because the HS can work with a maybe.