. . . grace that has conditions attached is no longer grace. (Marcus J Borg)

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible with Apocrypha.  The excerpts between the photos are from the book "What's So Amazing About Grace" by Philip Yancey.  All of the background pictures are, of course, my photography.


Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.

                                        Wisdom of Solomon 3:9



But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. 

Acts 20:24


. . . I worry that the prevailing image of Christians has changed from that of a perfume atomizer to a different spray apparatus: the kind used by insect exterminators. There's a roach!  Pump, spray, pump, spray. There's a spot of evil!  Pump, spray, pump, spray. Some Christians I know have taken on the task of "moral exterminator" for the evil-infested society around them. 

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." 

. . . Jesus proclaimed unmistakably that God’s law is so perfect and absolute that no one can achieve righteousness. Yet God's grace is so great that we do not have to. By striving to prove how much they deserve God's love, legalists miss the whole point of the gospel, that it is a gift from God to people who don't deserve it The solution to sin is not to impose an ever-stricter code of behavior.  It is to know God. 


From his fullness we have all received,
grace upon grace.

John 1:16


. . . righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus . . .

Romans 3:24 NIV


[from the Council at Jerusalem regarding Gentiles (those different from themselves)]
We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

Acts 15:11 NIV


For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 

Romans 5:15


One who has been touched by grace will no longer look on those who stray as "those evil people" or "those poor people who need our help." Nor must we search for signs of "loveworthiness." Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are. Categories of worthiness do not apply . . . 
I think back one more time to the prostitute
's comment at the beginning of this book: "Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They would just make me feel worse." Church should be a haven for people who feel terrible about themselves — theologically, that is our ticket for entry. God needs humble people (which usually means humbled people) to accomplish his work. Whatever makes us feel superior to other people, whatever tempts us to convey a sense of superiority, that is gravity, not grace. 
Readers of the Gospels marvel at Jesus' ability to move with ease among the sinners and outcasts. Having spent time around "sinners" and also around purported "saints," I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think he preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus. 


I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel . . .

Galatians 1:6


You who want to be justified by the law
have cut yourselves off from Christ;
you have fallen away from grace.

Galatians 5:4


For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God . . .

Ephesians 2:8


Let no evil talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is useful for building up,
as there is need, so that your words
may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29


"In the world the Christians are a colony of the true home," said Bonhoeffer. Perhaps Christians should work harder toward establishing colonies of the kingdom that point to our true home. All too often the church holds up a mirror reflecting back the society around it, rather than a window revealing a different way . . .   . . . Think of the impact if the first thing radical feminists thought when the conversation turned to evangelical men was that they had the best reputation for keeping their marriage vows and serving their wives in the costly fashion of Jesus at the cross. Think of the impact if the first thing the homosexual community thought of when someone mentioned evangelicals was that they were the people who lovingly ran the AIDS shelters and tenderly cared for them down to their last gasp. A little consistent wholesome modeling and costly servanthood are worth millions of true words harshly spoken. 
. . . Christians have spent enormous energy over the years debating and decreeing truth; every church defends its particu1ar version. But what about grace? How rare to find a church competing to "out-grace" its rivals. 


For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   Titus 3:3-7 


Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God . . .

Hebrews 12:14-15


Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10 NIV


"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

1 Peter 5:5 (Proverbs 3:34)


It is all too easy to point fingers at German Christians of the 1930s, southern fundamentalists in the 1960s, or South African Calvinists of the 1970s. What sobers me is that contemporary Christians may someday be judged just as harshly. What trivialities do we obsess over, and what weighty matters of the law — justice, mercy, faithfulness — might we be missing? Does God care more about nose rings or about urban decay? Grunge music or world hunger? Worship styles or a culture of violence? 
Author Tony Campolo, who makes a regular circuit as a chapel speaker on Christian college campuses, for a time used this provocation to make a point. "The United Nations reports that over ten thousand people starve to death each day, and most of you don't give a sh—. However, what is even more tragic is that most of you are more concerned about the fact that I just said a bad word than you are about the fact that ten thousand people are going to die today." The responses proved his point: in nearly every case Tony got a letter from the chaplain or president of the college protesting his foul language. The letters never mentioned world hunger. 


. . . so I guess that means you're a Moonie?" Manning asked. She said yes and hung her head.  To her surprise Manning gave this response. "You know something, Susan? I deeply admire your integrity and your fidelity to your conscience. You're out here tramping the streets doing what you really believe in. You are a challenge to anyone who claims the name ‘Christian.’" He and his wife both hugged the startled flower peddler.
"Are you Christians?" the girl asked. When they replied yes, she paused for a moment to get control of her emotions. Then she said, "I've been on my mission here in the Quarter for eight days now. You'
re the first Christians who have ever been nice to me. The others have either looked at me with contempt or screamed and told me that I was possessed by a demon. One woman hit me with her Bible." 


. . . he said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."

2 Corinthians 12:9


What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means!

Romans 6:1-2


. . . everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 4:15


May grace and peace be yours in abundance
in the knowledge of God
and of Jesus our Lord.

2 Peter 1:2