Grace. Everybody likes it. It might be the one Christian word that our culture still appreciates. I came to understand that in a brand new way when I was starting this church. I would tell people, “I’m here to start a church that’s all about grace.” And inevitably - church goer or not - they’d say something like, “Boy, our community needs more churches like that.” At some level, people still grasp a need for grace and want to understand what it means for them better.
But not everyone takes the time to reflect on its history - why we retain any clear concept of grace today. 500 years ago, grace was on conceptual life support. Depending on how you view the historical evidence you may even say it was dead. Gone. Buried. History had basically done to grace what Joseph of Arimathea had done to Jesus’ body after his crucifixion (Matthew 27:57-60). I mean it was bad. The supposed mouthpiece of God, the local church of the time, marketed and sold spiritual get-out-jail-free cards like your local Chevy dealer does Chevrolets. It was bad.
Until God made grace rise from the spiritual dead. It’s really amazing to think about. God gave grace to grace. Just when Satan thought he’d successfully stamped that viral and pesky little truth out. Just when he thought grace was dead and gone and forever put out to pasture. Just when his work in defeating knowledge of Jesus’ work, the fountain of grace, was done. Grace rose from the dead when it captured a little monk’s heart. His name? Martin Luther.
Because honestly? Satan couldn’t erase Jesus’ gift to us. It was already historical fact. Grace had already suffered. Grace had already been crucified. Grace had already died. Grace had already risen from the dead. Grace was here. Satan couldn’t change that. What he could do was make us ignorant of it. He could stop us from understanding or appreciating it. He could ruin us to any knowledge of its profundity - its bottomless depths that transport us to the highest heights of perfect forgiveness and endless mercy.
Satan’s nasty little plan worked like a charm until that viral and pesky little truth called grace got a hold of Luther. Not everybody was real happy about it at the time. The religious power brokers tried to tamp down the scrappy little group of people who fell in love with grace. In an effort to get them to give up on the idea, they even used perjorative terms to describe them. They said things like, “Oh, those people who think they get into heaven for free because of Jesus. Those Lutherans!” So that group of people kept the term. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t stop self-identifying as the people who clung to grace.
I don’t tell you this because I think you’re particularly interested in that sort of nuanced history. I tell you this because I’ll bet you’re curious about grace. At some level, everybody in our culture is. And if that’s true for you, it’s going to be well worth your while to check out a church that teaches grace so powerfully and with a commitment so fierce that 500 years later we still retain a perjorative term to tell the world how much we love grace.
Start this week. The historians will tell you that grace started its comeback 500 years ago on October 31st. It’s called the Reformation. Think of it. Your God was so committed to give you grace that he bought it and he won it for you at the infinitely high price of his Son. And then? Through the Reformation, he made sure that today you’d retain some kind of clarity on the subject. That’s worth caring about this week and showing up here to learn more about it.
“For it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:8) Happy Reformation, world!