A question that I get over and again in my travels is “Why is so hard for people to comprehend the message of grace? Why won’t they just accept that the work has been finished on their behalf?” There is usually a lot of exasperation in the question, and I can tell the person is growing frustrated with people and their rejection of the good news. This isn’t about unbelievers refusing the gospel, but rather believers choosing to remain in doctrines and environments that hamper their liberty, choke out their individuality and press them with heavy burdens of performance. You reach out to tug on their grave cloths and they pull back, content to be alive, and unconcerned with their inability to use their hands and feet.
My answer to this question is usually focused on the lack of exhaustion on the part of the individual. I theorize that maybe they just aren’t yet worn out on their own ability. When they do finally find themselves frazzled and frayed from the daily religious grind they will either give up and leave the Father’s house altogether, or they will fall into the arms of grace, and comprehend what we were talking about all along. Not to be pitched as a “See, we were right after all,” kind of thing, but more of a realization that people can’t achieve righteousness and favor and anointing by merit, and that cold reality will hit everyone sooner or later.
I’ve seen that reality hit so called champions of the faith on their deathbed. They should die with dignity and peace, but they are anxious and worried that they haven’t quite done enough. Family and friends buzz amongst themselves at the dying man’s humility. “Oh he did so much, his heart is so tender in him thinking it isn’t enough.” They don’t realize that he is serious. Death is no time to show a false face. The truth comes out because we have nothing left to hide and nothing left to lose. Tecumseh said to, “Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” That’s easier if you are sure you are going home.
My answer also usually concludes with the fact that its best not to jump into the water to help a drowning man until he’s finished fighting. If you enter the water too soon he’s likely to pull you down with him in his desperation. That illustration seems to hold up well, but it requires a level of patience on our part that could be construed as a lack of love and effort. Imagine you are watching a man drown and the lifeguard is just standing at the edge of the pool, staring, waiting.
As I grow older and go down the road of ministry a bit farther, and go into the Word a bit deeper, I have pretty much concluded that finding the perfect answer isn’t as important as being the kind of man that knows how to ask the perfect questions. People don’t grow if you give them answers, but the grow immensely and endlessly when you teach them how to ask the right questions. Then, and only then, are they engaged and their engagement guarantees that they are on a journey of pursuit that will keep them moving forward. Answers shut down discussions. Questions leave them open, and people continue to learn.
So I don’t know the answer to why people don’t just “get it.” Obviously there are a lot reasons. Maybe they don’t get it because we aren’t very good at explaining it. My daughter and I have a running joke among ourselves; we both consider ourselves writers to one extent or the other and so we are never allowed to say, “I can’t explain it,” when in conversation. One will say to the other, “I thought you were a writer. Hard to be a writer if you can’t explain something.” It keeps us on our toes. Keeps us thinking a bit longer about how to say something. We’ve also found that if you spend a little longer thinking about what you should say, it filters out the nonsense that you shouldn’t say, and that helps a lot! So maybe we should practice explaining our liberty, and spend time in the Word to find supporting arguments in favor of it.
Maybe people don’t get it because we aren’t very good at living it out. Perhaps we talk a better game than we walk. If you proclaim grace and liberty and freedom from the law and then treat people as if they must earn your love and forgiveness, that action speaks louder than those words. Being “liberated” from local church attendance, regular giving, personal evangelism and other perceived religious standards is no excuse for mocking the church, giving nothing into the cause of ministry, never sharing good news and just plain old being a jerk. Preach and teach all you want about the loving grace of God, but none of the words will go so far as living our that love and that grace.
Some obvious answers to the question, “Why don’t people get it?” are one’s that we don’t really want to acknowledge. But to be fair, we should. Maybe they don’t get it because they are convinced we are wrong. They have a doctrine already set in their head and any argument you place against it is viewed as another attack of the devil, hell-bent on getting them to compromise their beliefs. They view you as one of those “very elect” that have been deceived. While you are pleading for them to come into the liberty of grace, they are weeping for you and how you have backslid from the true faith. And let’s be honest, their argument is loaded with an illusion of holiness and the twin missles of shame and guilt. They are armed to the teeth with Scripture and plenty of stories of how you used to believe one thing or the other and how you have now compromised, lower your standard, conformed to the world, aren’t what you used to be. Grandpa would roll over in his grave if he knew you believed that.
Maybe people don’t come into the knowledge of grace and favor because it just isn’t time. They need to experience some things so that their journey will be complete. Grace found me long before I found grace. The message was both presented to me and lived out in front of me before I succumbed to it as a doctrine. I’m not entirely sure why it took so long, but I suspect it had to do with the ministries I was feeding myself with and the paradigm through which I was viewing the Bible. I had to become a bit exhausted on my performance and a bit disillusioned with my heroes in order to finally look elsewhere. Maybe that is why I usually give the answer I give, because it worked for me. But obviously it doesn’t work exactly that way for everyone, which leads me to another possibility and one that is overarching into many areas of our lives, not just how and when we accept the revelation of grace.
Another approach to this issue could be found in posing the question a bit differently. If asking better questions is the goal, asking questions better is a part of the process. So, rather than what is the reason that people won’t accept the message of grace and liberty, let’s ask, “What is the barrier to enlightenment?” Why can’t people find what they need? Why are they resistant to new information? Why are they slow to change?
Carl Jung tackled this question and concluded that what you most need will be found where you least want to look. Otherwise, you would have already found it. If you aren’t seeing something, it may be that you are scared to look.
At His baptism Jesus learns that He is the beloved Son of the Father. That is a piece of enlightenment that is a bit overwhelming. There are plenty of conflicting opinions running through the assembled crowd and even through His own head, I’m sure. We glimpse this in the later stories as people question His validity since they’ve known Him since He was a kid, and He’s Joseph’s son, and He’s just the local boy, so on and so forth. I mean, can any good come out of Nazareth? If you’re going to accept the voice of the Father, true enlightenment, you’re only going to find that assurance when you go into the dark wilderness and face off with the greatest enemy you can find.
Maybe people don’t walk into the enlightenment of grace because though it is what they most need, they won’t look where they most need to look. They simply aren’t looking in the right place. To admit the need for grace, we have to find fault in our current position. To admit the reality of new covenant liberty, we have to ask what’s wrong with where we are. This rabbit hole causes us to question leadership, and doctrinal structures, and denominations, and maybe even mom and dad, and then forces us to face a world where all of those turn on us and want nothing to do with our doctrine. Rejection, mis-understanding and separation are very real possibilities. The cold reality is that we would rather be wrong and accepted than be right and rejected. Just as studies have proven, people are more concerned with appearing to know something than actually knowing something.
So we still haven’t nailed it down. Some people walk into revelation and enlightenment easily. Or do they? I tend to think that no one walks into anything easily. There’s a price to be paid for anything you walk into. The price is invisible, but it’s real. The price is that whatever you have become has cost you whatever you could have become. Whatever you know has cost you what you could have known. Let’s determine that what we know is worth it, and then let’s determine to know a little more.
As Paul said, “That I may know Him…” That’s a good goal. Grace to you.